March 6, 2008

Senate Committee Votes to Prioritize Oceans and Coastal Areas in Federal Budget

Amendment by Sen. Whitehouse Aimed at Protecting Coastal and Marine Resources

Washington, D.C. – The Senate Budget Committee today unanimously passed an amendment sponsored by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to support investments in America’s oceans and coasts as part of the Senate’s proposed FY 2009 budget resolution.

“For us in the Ocean State, protecting our marine and coastal ecosystems isn’t just a priority – it’s a mission,” said Whitehouse, a member of the budget panel who also sits on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. “We need to do more to ensure that these precious resources last for generations.”

America’s oceans, lakes, and coasts face significant threats from pollution, the collapse of fishing stocks, the disappearance of irreplaceable marine habitats, and global climate change. Pollution from many different sources – overburdened sewage treatment plants, agricultural and residential runoff, marine vessel discharges, and airborne sources from power plants – endangers marine species and contaminates coastal waters and beaches. Global climate change represents one of the most severe and growing threats, and Rhode Island has already begun to experience a significant ecosystem shift within Narragansett Bay as the water’s temperature gradually warms. Warmer water contributed to a massive fish kill in Greenwich Bay in the summer of 2003.

The Joint Oceans Commission has written: “Our failure to properly manage the human activities that adversely affect our oceans and coasts is compromising the health of these systems and diminishing our ability to fully realize their potential.” Increased federal support for oceans and coastal areas could help clean up pollution, implement sustainable fishery management policies, and help oceans adapt to the long-term effects of global warming.

Whitehouse’s amendment would incorporate protections for oceans and coastal areas, including the Great Lakes, into a deficit-neutral reserve fund, which supports increased investment in clean, renewable energy, green jobs, and environmental preservation, in the underlying budget resolution. Reserve funds allow the chairman of the Budget Committee to adjust the budget resolution when certain legislation is passed, to accommodate revenue and spending levels included in the new legislation.

Last year, Whitehouse introduced the Global Warming Wildlife Survival Act (S. 2204), which calls for a coordinated national strategy to help wildlife populations and habitats, including coastal and marine animals and ecosystems, adapt to stresses related to climate change. The bill was incorporated into the Climate Security Act (S. 2191), which passed the EPW Committee in December and now awaits consideration by the full Senate. Whitehouse also offered an amendment to the Climate Security Act, which passed, that would ensure that coastal and Great Lakes communities affected by climate change have the information they need, such as data on projected sea level rise, severe weather, and associated flood risks, to prepare for and adapt to global warming.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921