March 26, 2009

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

Whitehouse-Cardin-Merkley Amendment Aimed at Protecting Coastal and Marine Resources

Washington, D.C. – The Senate Budget Committee today passed an amendment sponsored by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to support investments in America’s oceans and coasts as part of the Senate’s proposed FY 2010 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 must do more to ensure that these precious resources last for generations.”

“The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, a member of both the Budget and Environment panels. “Restoring water quality, preserving habitats, and supporting species abundance are top priorities of mine, and this amendment reflects our commitment to these vital goals.”

“The economic success of Oregon and America are closely tied to the health of our oceans and the Oregon Coast is one of the places Oregonians most treasure,” said Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley. “As we craft our nation’s budget, we must plan for measures that protect this amazing resource that is the foundation of Oregon’s fishing and other industries.”

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.

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 immediate and long-term effects of global warming.

The Senators’ 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.


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