Ocean Currents » house of representatives http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 25 Oct 2016 12:30:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Thank you Congressman Sam Farr! http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/13/thank-you-congressman-sam-farr/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/13/thank-you-congressman-sam-farr/#comments Fri, 13 Nov 2015 13:47:11 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11037

A young boy who loved exploring the tidal pools along the shores of California’s Monterey Bay grew up to become a fierce defender of America’s greatest natural resource — our ocean. Yesterday, after more than two decades as California’s Central Coast’s longest-serving member, Congressman Sam Farr announced that he would retire at the end of the current Congress.

We are deeply grateful to Congressman Farr for his leadership in protecting our ocean.

Congressman Farr is a founding member co-chair of the House Oceans Caucus, whose 67 members from both sides of the aisle work to educate the House about issues facing our world’s ocean.

His support for science and observation has helped us identify threats and actively seek solutions. From marine debris to ocean acidification to protected areas, Congressman Farr sponsored or co-sponsored legislation to tackle some of the most pressing ocean issues of our time.

Congressman Farr’s tenure and position on the powerful House Appropriations Committee made him a formidable protector of vital funding for our oceans.

He has a rare understanding of the link between healthy oceans and a robust national economy—one that he shared with members on both side of the aisle.

His approach embraces the needs of his constituents with common-sense and solid science rooted in a vision for a future where oceans continue to benefit us all. He has been an outspoken champion for ocean planning and the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

And his legacy includes nurturing the next generation of ocean champions.

In his long and illustrious career, Congressman Farr was also a champion for the B-WET program, which for many young Americans is their first and often only exposure to how they can protect our bays, watersheds and oceans.

That’s a love that can last a lifetime, as Congressman Farr knows.

Join Ocean Conservancy in thanking Congressman Farr!

Tweet: Thank you @RepSamFarr for being a true champion for #OurOcean

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The Ocean in Congress this Week: Good News and Bad News http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/29/the-ocean-in-congress-this-week-good-news-and-bad-news/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/29/the-ocean-in-congress-this-week-good-news-and-bad-news/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 17:57:06 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8416

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.

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Attack on National Ocean Policy Defeated; Lost Opportunity to Create a National Endowment for the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/16/attack-on-national-ocean-policy-defeated-lost-opportunity-to-create-a-national-endowment-for-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/16/attack-on-national-ocean-policy-defeated-lost-opportunity-to-create-a-national-endowment-for-the-ocean/#comments Fri, 16 May 2014 20:36:49 +0000 Anne Merwin http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8318 Over the course of the last few months, we’ve been talking about the competing visions of the House and Senate versions of a bill called the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The Senate proposed to establish a National Endowment for the Oceans, which would expand scientific research, provide planning and resource management, restore habitat and much more. Conversely, the House proposed to gut the existing National Ocean Policy that ensures smart use of ocean resources.

See our previous posts here, here, and here. Thousands of you wrote and called members of Congress, asking them to safeguard the National Ocean Policy and to establish a National Endowment for the Oceans.

This week, after nearly 6 months of negotiation, a final deal was announced. Thanks to your help, the threat to the National Ocean Policy was resoundingly rejected. Champions in the Senate and White House heard you, and successfully negotiated to remove the “Flores rider”—inserted by Rep. Bill Flores who represents a landlocked district in central Texas— from the final bill. If it had been successful, this misguided attempted to undermine the National Ocean Policy would have prohibited the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a key coastal and ocean management agency, from coordinating with coastal states, other federal agencies and the public as they engage in smart ocean planning. With this threat removed, the multiple states that are already working on smart ocean planning can move forward unimpeded with the full cooperation and participation of the federal government.

Unfortunately, the proposed new National Endowment for the Ocean was collateral damage in the negotiations. It is frustrating and disappointing that despite strong public demand and the recommendation of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, partisan politics derailed this opportunity to create a permanent, sustainable fund for our oceans’ future. However, we appreciate the Administration and Senate’s full-throated defense of the National Ocean Policy, and look forward to working with them to advance ocean planning priorities.

We are also pleased to see that the final bill does help prioritize the needs of coastal communities by creating a new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers coastal resiliency program. This program spotlights the need for increased resources for ocean and coastal resilience, and takes a positive step toward enabling coastal communities to better respond to changing ocean conditions such as sea level rise, and major disasters such as hurricanes and superstorms.

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Straight A’s for the Senate on NOAA Funding http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/24/straight-as-for-the-senate-on-noaa-funding/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/24/straight-as-for-the-senate-on-noaa-funding/#comments Wed, 24 Jul 2013 14:30:26 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6393 cut up $100 bill

Photo: Tax Credits via Flickr

The House of Representatives did not do very well when I gave them grades last week on their answers to three key questions about funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The Senate has released their funding proposal—let’s see if they did any better:

1. NOAA’s topline budget: does it cover the costs?         GRADE: A

The Senate’s proposal would fund NOAA at $5.6 billion, $150 million above the President’s request for next year. That extra $150 million would go to mitigating the effects of fishery disasters declared around the country. The rest of the $5.4 billion closely aligns with the President’s request, targeting important programs like ocean acidification for long overdue funding increases.

Adequate funding for NOAA is critically important to the health of our nation’s ocean and coasts, and the economies and communities that depend on them. The truth is we need to be investing in these vital programs at significantly higher levels. However, in this fiscal climate, providing funding above the level requested by the President’s budget is a significant step.

2. Is there balance between NOAA’s wet and dry missions?       GRADE A

Here, the Senate gets it right again. Unlike the House bill, the Senate doesn’t cut tens of millions of dollars from the National Marine Fisheries Service or more than $100 million from the National Ocean Service. Instead, the Senate version makes it clear that programs that support a healthy ocean and healthy ocean economies are not going to bear the brunt of automatic spending cuts.

The Senate also acknowledges that NOAA has a dual mission for an important reason: NOAA’s “wet side” programs contribute to disaster preparedness and mitigation, and support severe storm tracking and weather forecasting systems. Without support for both its wet and dry missions, NOAA can’t do either.

3. Does the bill attack the National Ocean Policy?            GRADE A

So far, so good. While it is possible that we may still see attacks on the National Ocean Policy as this appropriations process moves forward, the Senate bill is free of such attacks for now.

Ultimately, unless some broader deal is worked out in the meantime, the Senate will have to go to conference with the House and decide what a final funding bill for the next year at NOAA will look like. Hopefully the Senate can maintain its A average.


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A New Ocean Champion in the Senate http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/17/a-new-ocean-champion-in-the-senate/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/17/a-new-ocean-champion-in-the-senate/#comments Wed, 17 Jul 2013 14:30:29 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6297

Credit: U.S. Senate Photo Studio

Few members of Congress past or present have done more for ocean conservation than Ed Markey. During four decades in the House of Representatives, then-Congressman Markey fought for and achieved significant environmental victories.

Following his recent win in the Massachusetts special election, we wanted to highlight how the Bay State Democrat, and the newest senator, has been an ocean champion throughout his career:

While it is sad for us at Ocean Conservancy to see the House of Representatives lose one of its true ocean champions, we congratulate Ed Markey on his new position in the Senate and look forward to him continuing the fight for effective ocean protection and conservation now in his new role in the Senate.

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NOAA Funding Bill Gets Poor Grades When It Comes to Supporting a Healthy Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/16/noaa-funding-bill-gets-poor-grades-when-it-comes-to-supporting-a-healthy-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/16/noaa-funding-bill-gets-poor-grades-when-it-comes-to-supporting-a-healthy-ocean/#comments Tue, 16 Jul 2013 19:49:46 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6315

Credit: Architect of the Capitol

Last week, I wrote about what to look for in the about-to-be released bills for funding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), including three questions to ask to determine whether the bill will support a healthy ocean. Now the House of Representatives has released its funding bill for NOAA.

As a former high school math and physics teacher, I thought grades were in order.

1. NOAA’s topline budget: does it cover the costs?     GRADE: C

We have written before about bigger problems within the federal budget and how those problems impact ocean funding. In the House, the overall amount of money allocated for NOAA is too low. But the reality is that only a solution at a much higher level, including the president and Congress working together, can fix the problem. So we’re cutting the House Committee some slack because we know that their hands are tied.

But the dysfunction of Washington is no excuse for NOAA’s budget to be $524 million below the president’s request. NOAA is facing a unique set of needs—like satellite acquisition—that mean flat-funding is not acceptable. NOAA needs increases or else people, services and the ocean environment are going to get left behind.

By essentially keeping the funding the same for the agency, the House is guaranteeing that something will have to be cut. It’s simple math.

2. Is there balance between NOAA’s wet and dry missions?     GRADE: D

Here, the House avoided an “F” by the skin of its teeth. In many ways, the House bill is atrocious when it comes to balancing NOAA’s portfolio. The National Ocean Service is funded at $128 million below the president’s request and the National Marine Fisheries Service at $83 million below. The ocean and coasts get left behind as members of Congress have tried to use what little funding there is to help the National Weather Service.

For example, Coastal Zone Management Grants, which fund state and regional priorities for the ocean, are cut by $31 million, nearly half the president’s request. Climate research is cut by a shocking $92 million. The only saving grace is a few examples of small but important programs that were preserved or increased—like a small increase in funding for ocean acidification research and monitoring.

3. Does the bill attack the National Ocean Policy?     GRADE: D

On the National Ocean Policy, the House bill again just ekes by. While the bill doesn’t attack the policy outright, it does not provide funding for this important initiative, and it takes the issue a step further with language making it clear that the House doesn’t support it. But the National Ocean Policy is bipartisan, spanning both Republican and Democratic administrations.

The National Ocean Policy is about balance, good governance and ensuring long-term sustainability for our ocean economy, ocean jobs and ocean environment. It calls for agencies to coordinate on their ocean activities and leverage limited resources, and for priorities to be set at the local and regional level instead of in Washington, D.C.

A handful of Congressmen that live nowhere near the ocean—namely Rep. Flores from Houston and Rep. Hastings from inland Washington state—have made a major push to get rid of the National Ocean Policy. These attacks on the policy are simply political gamesmanship—and it’s only fun and games until our coastal communities get hurt.

We expect these attacks to continue as this bill moves through full committee and then on to the House floor.

We will need to rely on the Senate to help restore these numbers. With over half of the members on the Senate Appropriations Committee representing coastal or Great Lakes states, there is hope that they will better understand the value of these programs. Stay tuned as the Senate begins its work on this bill this week.

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Three Questions to Ask About NOAA’s Funding http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/09/three-questions-to-ask-about-noaas-funding/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/09/three-questions-to-ask-about-noaas-funding/#comments Tue, 09 Jul 2013 16:23:46 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6246 This week in Congress, the House of Representatives will put forth a bill to fund the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the 2014 fiscal year. We saw earlier this year that President Obama’s 2014 budget for NOAA would provide a bright future for our ocean, but the funding bill in the House paints a much grimmer picture.

How will you know whether the bill will support a healthy ocean? Here are three questions to ask:

1. NOAA’s topline budget: does it cover the costs?

Despite being one of the most important agencies to our ocean, NOAA has faced significant funding cuts in recent years, and it is likely that the House will attempt to steeply cut NOAA’s budget again this year. With the sequestration, NOAA’s budget is already hovering at 13 percent below the current request for $5.4 billion. This bill could demand even lower numbers.

NOAA’s mission of protecting, restoring and managing our ocean and coasts is vitally important to our ocean and coastal economies, which contribute more than $258 billion annually to the nation’s gross domestic product and support 2.7 million jobs through fisheries and seafood production, tourism, recreation, transportation and construction.

Adequate funding for NOAA is critically important to the health of our nation’s ocean and coasts, and the economies and communities that depend on them. Cutting resources will cost us—now and in the future.

2. Is there balance between NOAA’s wet and dry missions?

NOAA has been tasked with a broad range of duties, from the National Weather Service and weather satellite programs (dry side) to the National Ocean Service and ocean and coastal programs (wet side).

Congress must maintain balanced investments across NOAA’s missions. Americans shouldn’t have to choose between weather satellites and ocean and coastal resources that support and protect our coastal economies and communities. We simply need both.

One example of the importance of NOAA’s “wet side” programs is the role they play in disaster preparedness and mitigation. Coastal wetland buffer zones in the United States are estimated to provide $23.2 billion per year in storm protection, and a single acre of wetland can store 1 to 1.5 million gallons of floodwaters or storm surge.

In addition, ocean and coastal observations and monitoring supports severe storm tracking and weather forecasting systems, which greatly reduce the cost of natural disaster preparation, evacuation and mitigation. We know that disasters, both natural and man-made, will strike our shores again. Let’s ensure we’re better prepared.

3. Does the bill attack the National Ocean Policy?

In past years, attempts have been made to use NOAA’s funding bill to attack the National Ocean Policy. The policy is about balance, good governance and ensuring long-term sustainability for our ocean economy and ocean environment.

Without creating new regulations, the National Ocean Policy calls for federal agencies to coordinate their ocean activities and leverage limited resources to more efficiently carry out activities like mapping and monitoring. Attacks on the National Ocean Policy risk ongoing conflict and uncertainty for our nation’s ocean and coasts.

In addition, because the National Ocean Policy focuses on coordinating existing laws and services, there is a risk that attacks on it could affect programs that communities currently rely on. This could even harm plans critical to Superstorm Sandy recovery and restoration efforts in places like the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay.

Investing in our ocean will benefit coastal ecosystems and the economies they support. If we shortchange NOAA, we shortchange the communities that rely on the ocean. Congress must ensure that the funding levels match the importance of NOAA’s tasks at hand.

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