There was a flurry of activity on ocean acidification this week in, of all places, the Halls of Congress. Not one, but two different bills on ocean acidification were introduced in the House of Representatives. And more importantly, these bills were written by a new generation of members of Congress anxious to tackle the threat that ocean acidification poses to the people, businesses, and communities that they represent.
On Tuesday, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree introduced legislation, the Coastal Communities Acidification Act of 2014, that would require federal officials to analyze the risks ocean acidification poses to coastal and island communities around the United States. The Congresswoman’s home state of Maine has hundreds of rural coastal communities that rely heavily on fisheries, shellfish, lobsters, and other ocean resources – communities that may stand to lose a lot in the face of ocean acidification. Congresswoman Pingree’s bill comes on the heels of action by the Maine State Legislature, which passed a law earlier this month to establish a commission to study ocean acidification in Maine. But Pingree’s federal bill goes much further, calling for officials to examine the very real economic and social risks that ocean acidification could pose to all coastal communities across the country.
Then on Thursday, Congressman Derek Kilmer from Washington state introduced a bipartisan bill to help spur new technologies and scientific innovations in ocean acidification research. Titled the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act, Kilmer’s bill would give federal ocean acidification research programs the ability to run prize competitions, much like the X-Prize. Congressman Kilmer announced last week that he would be introducing the bill, and yesterday a bipartisan group of cosponsors joined him in fulfilling that promise: Representatives Capps (D-CA-24), Heck (D-WA-10), Herrera-Beutler (R-WA-3), Huffman (D-CA-2), Peters (D-CA-52), and Reichert (R-WA-8).
Ocean acidification is a very real threat to both the ocean environment and the people who depend on it for their livelihoods. These bills are a step in the right direction and we need to see more action like this. The more members of Congress we have who are willing to support creative solutions and develop a vision for how to address this problem, the better. We applaud Representatives Pingree and Kilmer for their leadership, and we hope to see many more members of Congress doing the same in the future.