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The Ocean in Congress this Week: Good News and Bad News

Posted On May 29, 2014 by

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will debate the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill – an important bill for the ocean because it sets the annual budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Many amendments will be introduced to alter the bill; as far as the oceans are concerned, there’s good news and bad news.

Let’s start with the good news:

On the heels of some very important steps to tackle ocean acidification last week, Representative Bonamici (D-OR) led the charge to ensure that this issue, which is threatening American businesses and livelihoods, receives increased funding from Congress.

A few months ago, President Obama called for increased investments in funding ocean acidification research and monitoring. Unfortunately the U.S. House of Representatives has failed to answer that call so far. An amendment offered by Representative Bonamici would have increased the funding level for NOAA’s Ocean Acidification research program from $6 million to $15 million – the amount that the President says we need, however this amendment did not pass the house.  These dollars would have supported critical research to improve our understanding of acidification impacts on vulnerable communities and businesses.

Luckily, the U.S. Senate still has an opportunity to grab the baton from Rep. Bonamici and support full funding for this research when they take up their own NOAA funding bill next week.

But here’s the bad news:

A Member of Congress from a landlocked district in Texas is continuing his efforts to thwart common sense ocean planning. Representative Flores (R-TX) introduced an amendment that tries to block the nation’s premier ocean agency, NOAA, from smart ocean planning and other activities to support a healthy ocean through the National Ocean Policy.

This amendment is the sixth attempt in the last two years by Rep. Flores to undermine smart planning for the ocean, but none of his amendments have become law – thanks to strong opposition from Ocean Conservancy members, the Obama Administration, and the U.S. Senate.

We need to hold strong against this latest attack. Being smart about how we use our ocean allows us to look at the big picture and work together to make informed, balanced choices for a healthy ocean and the millions of jobs and livelihoods that depend on it. Planning maximizes what we get out of the ocean while minimizing the threats to the ocean’s health. It prevents conflicts like wind farms being planned in major shipping routes, balances uses like sand mining and commercial fishing interests, and protects key biological resources without impeding the needs of our defense infrastructure.

You can help by telling your member of Congress to oppose this amendment.

It’s clear that we have a challenge ahead, but we are hopeful that leaders in the U.S. Senate will prioritize the people and communities that depend on a healthy ocean by funding critically important ocean research and planning.