Whitehouse, Snowe Introduce Legislation to Support Coastal Jobs and Protect Oceans

Washington, DC – With coastal communities throughout the country struggling in this economy, and coastal ecosystems facing a barrage of environmental challenges, U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) today introduced legislation to protect our oceans and coasts, and the research, tourism, and fishing jobs they support. The legislation, which is cosponsored by Senators Inouye (D-HI), Rockefeller (D-WV), Stabenow (D-MI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Landrieu (D-LA), would create a National Endowment for the Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes to provide reliable funding for research and preservation efforts.

“In Rhode Island, the strength of our economy is tied to the health of our oceans,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “This legislation will help protect our oceans and coasts, and the natural resources they provide, so they may continue to support jobs for generations to come.”

“This legislation is a major step forward in enhancing the management and protection of our nation’s invaluable coastal and ocean resources,” said Senator Snowe, the Ranking Member of the Senate subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard. “In Maine, our coastal communities and economy are inextricably linked to the ocean’s health and sustainability, and the National Endowment for the Oceans Act would help fulfill our responsibility to preserve the vitality of the critical ecosystem it supports.”

The National Endowment for the Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes Act would provide steady funding that universities, non-profit organizations, and government agencies can count on every year to support research and restoration projects. It would be funded in part by interest accrued from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and the dedication of 12.5 percent of revenues from offshore energy development, including oil, gas, and renewable energy.

Funds from the Endowment would be distributed through grant programs to coastal states and regional planning organizations, and through a national competitive grant program to support activities in any state that would benefit our oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes.

The grant programs established in the Endowment would fund projects to restore habitat, manage fisheries, plan for sustainable coastal development, acquire coastal properties for preservation, and relocate critical coastal infrastructure.

“Rhode Island’s ocean and coastal waters are essential to our social, economic and environmental well-being. At the same time, these waters are at risk from oil spills, pollution, energy development, climate change, and other threats,” said Save The Bay Executive Director Jonathan Stone. “Save The Bay strongly supports the National Endowment for the Oceans. We need this immediately to protect our invaluable marine resources from these many challenges.”

“The 21st century is destined to be the Ocean Century as we wrestle with the implications of global warming, go ever deeper in search of oil, gas, and wind to fuel our economy, and struggle to sustain fishery resources to feed a hungry world,” said Don Perkins, President/CEO, Gulf of Maine Research Institute. “As the Gulf oil spill taught us all, we have much to learn about the environmental implications of deep ocean energy extraction. We battle over how much fish we can harvest and grow in the ocean due to our ignorance about the science of sustainability. The National Endowment for the Oceans Act will address these problems in a direct and financially prudent manner. The marine research community nationwide is deeply appreciative of Senators Snowe and Whitehouse for their leadership in this arena.”