Senate Committees Approve Whitehouse-Sullivan-Menendez Marine Debris Bill
Save Our Seas 2.0 addresses plastic debris washing up on American shores
Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today applauded passage of two parts of the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act (introduced in whole as S. 1982) by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A third piece of the bill awaits action by the Senate Commerce Committee. The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act was introduced in June to address the plastic debris crisis threatening coastal economies and harming marine life.
The legislation seeks to help reduce the creation of plastic waste, find uses for the plastic waste that already exists to keep it from entering the oceans, spur innovation and tackle the problem on a global scale. It builds on the initial progress secured by the Save Our Seas Act, which was sponsored by Whitehouse and Sullivan and signed into law by President Trump last fall.
“The Senate has a tradition of working in a bipartisan fashion to protect our oceans, and this week’s IPCC report emphasizes how important it is to repair ocean health,” said Senator Whitehouse, who co-founded the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus to find common ground in responding to issues facing the oceans and coasts. “The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act would put in place creative solutions on a global scale to further address the marine debris crisis.”
“The passing of the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act through two committees today builds even more momentum toward our goal of protecting the coastlines of the world, our nation, and the vast shores of Alaska from marine pollution,” said Senator Sullivan. “The fact that we have such broad bipartisan support, not only within Congress and from the President, but also from environmental groups and the private sector, really underscores the opportunity we have to take action against this entirely solvable global environmental challenge.”
“As we grapple with the implications of plastic waste, most of which comes from overseas, we must exercise our global leadership,” said Senator Menendez. “That’s why, as Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – and as the senior Senator representing the incredible New Jersey shore -- I’ve pushed to make sure that our strategy includes a real focus on using our foreign policy and international cooperation to combat plastic pollution abroad. And with today’s committee action, that work moves one big step forward.”
The Environment and Public Works Committee today approved part of the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act (introduced separately as the Save Our Seas 2.0: Improving Domestic Infrastructure to Prevent Marine Debris Act, S. 2260) pertaining to improving domestic waste and water infrastructure, and the Foreign Relations Committee considered its piece of the bill (introduced separately as the Save Our Seas 2.0: Enhanced Global Engagement to Combat Marine Debris Act, S. 2372) that would step up global engagement to combat marine debris.
Roughly eight million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste from land enters the oceans each year. Ninety percent of this plastic enters the oceans from ten rivers, eight of which are in Asia. The plastic breaks down into tiny pieces that can enter the marine food chain and harm fish and wildlife, and wash ashore on even the most remote stretches of coastline. Plastic has been found in areas as remote as the Mariana Trench, the deepest known point in the ocean.
The full Save Our Seas 2.0 Act is cosponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rob Portman (D-OH), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tom Carper (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Brian Schatz (D-HI), in addition to Senators Whitehouse, Sullivan, and Menendez.
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