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House Republicans broadly support amendment to block President’s efforts to make federal ocean agencies more efficient

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On Wednesday afternoon on the floor of the House of Representatives Representative Bill Flores, (R-TX), introduced an amendment to H.R. 5326 the FY2013 appropriations bill for those agencies in Commerce, Justice, Science budget block. The Amendment would block the expenditure of any funds provided by the Commerce Justice Science (CJS) appropriations bill for FY2013 to be used for the implementation of the “National Ocean Policy,” thereby blocking the coordination of the multitude of laws passed by Congress in a more efficient manner.

While the vote in the House of Representatives occurred largely along party lines, it is a mistake to characterize the issue as one which Democrats understand more clearly than Republicans. A handful of Republicans, including the House Natural Resources Committee chair Rep. Doc Hastings from Washington, are seemingly perpetually confused about the meaning of the National Ocean Policy, the Executive Order which created it and the policies that it espouses.

Flores Amendment to block funding for National Ocean Policy presented on the House floor 10May2012

However, this lack of understanding has not been consistent in the Republican Party. In the prior Administration President Bush (43) called for a Presidential Commission to examine America’s policies regarding our oceans and coasts, and that group’s report, dovetailed remarkably well with the Pew Ocean Commission, Chaired by Leon Panetta, which released its own report shortly before President Bush’s Commission released its findings. None of the findings in either Commission’s reports support a call from current Republicans in the House to further frustrate coordination and collaboration among the dozens of federal agencies involved in implementing the laws passed by Congress which impact our oceans and coasts.

The Flores amendment passed on a 246-174 vote, largely along party lines. A detailed listing of the vote is listed below.

The text of the amendment language is:

“At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:

    Sec. __. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement the National Ocean Policy developed under Executive Order 13547 (75 Fed. Reg. 43023, relating to the stewardship of oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes).”

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy, government relations and strategic communications firm in Washington, DC.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert and on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/willnuckols/

FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 234(Republicans in roman; Democrats in italic; Independents underlined)

—- AYES    246 —

Adams
Aderholt
Akin
Alexander
Altmire
Amash
Amodei
Austria
Barletta
Barrow
Bartlett
Barton (TX)
Benishek
Berg
Bilbray
Bilirakis
Bishop (NY)
Black
Blackburn
Bonner
Bono Mack
Boren
Boustany
Brady (TX)
Brooks
Broun (GA)
Buchanan
Bucshon
Buerkle
Burgess
Burton (IN)
Calvert
Camp
Campbell
Canseco
Cantor
Capito
Carter
Cassidy
Chabot
Chaffetz
Coble
Coffman (CO)
Cole
Conaway
Cravaack
Crawford
Crenshaw
Critz
Cuellar
Culberson
Davis (KY)
Denham
Dent
DesJarlais
Diaz-Balart
Dreier
Duffy
Duncan (SC)
Duncan (TN)
Ellmers
Emerson
Farenthold
Fincher
Flake
Fleischmann
Fleming
Flores
Forbes
Fortenberry
Foxx
Franks (AZ)
Frelinghuysen
Gallegly
Gardner
Garrett
Gerlach
Gibbs
Gibson
Gingrey (GA)
Gohmert
Goodlatte
Gosar
Gowdy
Granger
Graves (GA)
Graves (MO)
Green, Al
Green, Gene
Griffin (AR)
Griffith (VA)
Grimm
Guinta
Guthrie
Hall
Hanna
Harper
Harris
Hartzler
Hastings (WA)
Heck
Hensarling
Herger
Herrera Beutler
Hochul
Holden
Huelskamp
Huizenga (MI)
Hultgren
Hunter
Hurt
Issa
Jenkins
Johnson (IL)
Johnson (OH)
Johnson, Sam
Jordan
Kelly
King (IA)
King (NY)
Kingston
Kinzinger (IL)
Kissell
Kline
Labrador
Lamborn
Lance
Landry
Lankford
Latham
Latta
Lewis (CA)
LoBiondo
Long
Lucas
Luetkemeyer
Lummis
Lungren, Daniel E.
Mack
Manzullo
Marchant
Marino
Matheson
McCarthy (CA)
McCaul
McClintock
McCotter
McHenry
McKeon
McKinley
McMorris Rodgers
Meehan
Mica
Miller (FL)
Miller (MI)
Miller, Gary
Mulvaney
Murphy (PA)
Myrick
Neugebauer
Noem
Nugent
Nunes
Nunnelee
Olson
Owens
Palazzo
Paul
Paulsen
Pearce
Pence
Peterson
Petri
Pitts
Platts
Poe (TX)
Pompeo
Posey
Price (GA)
Quayle
Rahall
Reed
Rehberg
Reichert
Renacci
Ribble
Rigell
Rivera
Roby
Roe (TN)
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Rogers (MI)
Rohrabacher
Rokita
Rooney
Ros-Lehtinen
Roskam
Ross (AR)
Ross (FL)
Royce
Runyan
Ryan (WI)
Scalise
Schilling
Schock
Schweikert
Scott (SC)
Scott, Austin
Sensenbrenner
Sessions
Shimkus
Shuler
Shuster
Simpson
Smith (NE)
Smith (NJ)
Smith (TX)
Southerland
Stivers
Stutzman
Sullivan
Terry
Thompson (PA)
Thornberry
Tiberi
Tipton
Turner (NY)
Turner (OH)
Upton
Walberg
Walden
Walsh (IL)
Webster
West
Westmoreland
Whitfield
Wilson (SC)
Wittman
Wolf
Womack
Woodall
Yoder
Young (AK)
Young (FL)
Young (IN)

—- NOES    174 —

Ackerman
Andrews
Baca
Baldwin
Bass (CA)
Bass (NH)
Becerra
Berkley
Berman
Biggert
Bishop (GA)
Blumenauer
Bonamici
Boswell
Brady (PA)
Braley (IA)
Brown (FL)
Butterfield
Capps
Capuano
Cardoza
Carnahan
Carney
Carson (IN)
Castor (FL)
Chandler
Chu
Cicilline
Clarke (MI)
Clarke (NY)
Clay
Cleaver
Clyburn
Cohen
Connolly (VA)
Conyers
Cooper
Costa
Costello
Courtney
Crowley
Cummings
Davis (CA)
Davis (IL)
DeFazio
DeGette
DeLauro
Deutch
Dicks
Dingell
Doggett
Dold
Doyle
Edwards
Ellison
Engel
Eshoo
Farr
Fattah
Fitzpatrick
Frank (MA)
Fudge
Garamendi
Gonzalez
Grijalva
Gutierrez
Hahn
Hanabusa
Hastings (FL)
Hayworth
Heinrich
Higgins
Himes
Hinchey
Hinojosa
Hirono
Holt
Honda
Hoyer
Israel
Jackson (IL)
Jackson Lee (TX)
Johnson (GA)
Johnson, E. B.
Jones
Kaptur
Keating
Kildee
Kind
Langevin
Larsen (WA)
Larson (CT)
LaTourette
Lee (CA)
Levin
Lewis (GA)
Lipinski
Loebsack
Lofgren, Zoe
Lowey
Luján
Lynch
Maloney
Markey
Matsui
McCarthy (NY)
McCollum
McDermott
McGovern
McIntyre
McNerney
Meeks
Michaud
Miller (NC)
Miller, George
Moore
Moran
Murphy (CT)
Nadler
Neal
Olver
Pallone
Pascrell
Pastor (AZ)
Pelosi
Perlmutter
Peters
Pingree (ME)
Polis
Price (NC)
Quigley
Rangel
Reyes
Richardson
Richmond
Rothman (NJ)
Roybal-Allard
Ruppersberger
Rush
Ryan (OH)
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Sarbanes
Schakowsky
Schiff
Schrader
Schwartz
Scott (VA)
Scott, David
Serrano
Sewell
Sherman
Sires
Smith (WA)
Speier
Stark
Stearns
Sutton
Thompson (CA)
Thompson (MS)
Tierney
Tonko
Towns
Tsongas
Van Hollen
Velázquez
Visclosky
Walz (MN)
Wasserman Schultz
Waters
Watt
Waxman
Woolsey
Yarmuth

—- NOT VOTING    11 —

Bachmann
Bachus
Bishop (UT)
Donnelly (IN)
Filner
Kucinich
Napolitano
Schmidt
Slaughter
Welch
Wilson (FL)

Why the rush to explore space, when the oceans are the likely key to life on earth?

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While much news for the past month focused on plans for NASA going – or not going –  back to the moon, then exploring the wonders of the sun, and yesterday a hearing on manned spaceflight, keep this in mind:  we’ve only ever been to the deepest point in the ocean once – and that was before much of the population of the United States was even born.  Since 1968, we’ve landed on the moon six times, and nine times we’ve flown by it.  Between 1968 and 1972 there were nine missions to the moon. And yet there has only ever been one mission to the deepest part of our ocean.  It was Jan. 23, 1960. It’s been 50 years since we’ve reached the deepest ocean depths. 

On May 12, 2010 at the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on the Future of Manned Space Flight, Apollo 11 Astronaut Neil Armstrong noted President Bush’s plans to finish the International Space Station, return to the moon, establish a permanent presence there, and venture onward toward Mars. But there remain no analogous plans by that Administration nor the Obama Administration to commit to a serious exploration of our planet’s ocean depths. 

So other than the fact that some people like deep sea exploration and others like space exploration, does the difference matter? 

In a word – YES. 

1959 Navy photo of the Bathyscape Trieste hoisted from the water

1959 U.S. Navy photo of the Bathyscape Trieste hoisted from the water

 

Yes because unlike moon landings, when we failed to find any life, and have spent much time, money and effort wondering if it ever did support life, in 1960 when the Navy submersible Trieste reached Challenger Deep, the deepest ocean spot known, they saw with their own eyes what few suspected they would – life. 

Not just invertebrates, like shrimp and worms which some thought might live at such extreme depths – they saw fish.  Yes, fish at 35,800 feet.  There are flatfish in the shallows of our bays and estuaries all along the east coast.  As a young boy, still too small to hold a fishing rod, I remember catching other types of flatfish on a hand-line in my formative years on the Chesapeake Bay. And thanks to two brave men from the Navy, we know that flatfish also live seven miles beneath the sea. 

What is so much more exciting about the oceans than space?  Both have extreme conditions. Both require technology, engineering expertise and dedicated people to make visiting these places possible. But what sets the ocean deep apart from space is life itself. 

What is occurring on at the bottom of our oceans that allows for complex food chains that could support vertebrate life to exist? We have only one brief direct human observation to answer countless questions about life at the deepest part of the sea. 

We once saw the oceans as simply a form or transportation, a way to more easily move goods and armies long distances, and a way to fill hungry stomachs. But in the last century we have come to understand that terrestrial life itself depends on the oceans. Without the food it produces, the oxygen it releases into the atmosphere, terrestrial life on our planet would be very different, if it could exist at all. And now climate scientists and oceanographers alert us that the oceans have a significant role regulating climate too, and that the oceans have likely been serving as a sponge that have soaked up significant CO2 produced by human activity for some time now. How full is the sponge? We really don’t know yet, nor do we know whether the sponge keeps CO2 forever. Will the oceans later change and have a negative impact on our planet as atmospheric conditions continue to change? That is currently uncertain too. As are the impacts, either positive or negative, on life in the depths of the ocean. 

CO2 levels have been documented as changing over the last several decades. Does life in Challenger Deep it look any different than it did in 1960? Unless we build the craft to return to these vast depths, we can only guess. 

So should we stop exploring space and only explore our globe, and focus on the most extreme depths? My hunch is no, as space also provides a return on investment. Historically there has been significant technology spinoffs from the space programs – spinoffs that have been good for the American economy. How big that return on investment is for America, and whether we need to rush into expanded space exploration, or take a more metered approach, I will leave to others. 

Trieste pressure sphere

The small pressure sphere at the bottom of the Trieste is where the only direct observations of the deepest part of the ocean was made

 

But this year, the 50th anniversary of the only time humans sat, even ever so briefly, on the ocean’s deepest spot, I say that we have consistently underfunded the understanding of our oceans. And from this ignorance we likely risk further damaging our planet. Mankind does have a long history of harming that which we do not understand. 

So for even those of us who SCUBA dive, those who are able to see first-hand many wonders of the ocean’s first tens of meters, consider that we can spend years exploring those shallow depths and be left with one certainly: there is much of our planet that we still do not understand, not even at a rudimentary level. And while the advent of robots and autonomous sea vehicles will help us greatly expand our understanding of the undersea world, there is no substitute for a human seeing and experiencing first-hand, the most extreme places on earth.

Who will be the next to go back to the greatest ocean depths?  Will it be this generation, or will opportunity pass us by as it has the professional careers of those in decision making positions in the 70’s, 80’s 90’s and 2000’s? 

Let’s use this 50th anniversary of the Trieste expedition to build the support necessary to take ocean exploration seriously.  For when the next time humans make it back to the deepest of the ocean depths, and almost certainly make new discoveries, wouldn’t you like to tell your friends and children “did you hear about that new scientific discovery? I was a part of a group of visionary people who built the support to make it happen.” 

Navt All Hands Video image
Click on the Link below to view the Navy ALL HANDS VIDEO on the Trieste

LINK TO ALL HANDS VIDEO 

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.