Washington, DC – Earlier this year, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced bipartisan legislation to establish a National Endowment for the Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes in order to protect our oceans and coasts, and the jobs they support. Today, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), of which Whitehouse is a member, took an important step toward establishing this program by approving legislation to provide funding for the Endowment.
“This is a major step toward getting a National Endowment for the Oceans launched,” said Whitehouse. “By establishing a stream of funding, we will enable the Endowment to begin the work of protecting our oceans and supporting the fishing, research, and tourism jobs which are central to Rhode Island’s economy.”
The Committee voted today to approve the RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act of 2011, which would set up a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund financed by the billions of dollars in Clean Water Act penalties expected to be paid by BP and other companies responsible for last year’s Gulf oil spill. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently litigating those Clean Water Act claims in federal court in Louisiana. An amendment negotiated by Whitehouse and approved by the Committee today would provide half of the interest generated by that fund – expected to be tens of millions of dollars in the first year alone – to the National Endowment for the Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes. The Endowment would be established in the U.S. Treasury and would be managed by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
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.
The legislation now awaits action by the full Senate.
To become a citizen co-sponsor of the National Endowment for the Oceans, please click here.