July 22, 2010

Whitehouse, Snowe Introduce Landmark Legislation to Protect Oceans and Coasts

Bipartisan Bill Would Provide Needed Funding for Research and Preservation

Washington, DC – Over the last few months the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has demonstrated the fragility of the world’s oceans and the extent to which America’s economy relies on their continued well-being. Today, U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation to create a National Endowment for the Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes in order to protect and preserve these natural resources for future generations.

“For too long, we have been takers from our oceans rather than caretakers of our oceans,” said Whitehouse, a Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “This legislation will help to protect our oceans and coasts so they can continue to drive our economy for generations to come.”

“Throughout my tenure as Ranking Member on the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, I have worked to enhance management and protection of the Nation’s invaluable coastal and ocean resources. The legislation we introduced today would be a major step forward, ensuring a steady stream of funding for state, regional, and National ocean and coastal priorities,” said Snowe. “The ongoing calamity in the Gulf of Mexico speaks to the responsibility we have to balance offshore energy activities with protection of our vital natural resources. A National Endowment for the Oceans that reinvests a portion of offshore revenues in the areas most directly affected was one of the fundamental recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, and I look forward to actively pursuing its passage into law.”

The legislation would establish a new grant program to fund activities to preserve and restore our ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems to protect the communities and economies that rely on these areas. The Endowment will include rigorous application and review procedures as well as performance accountability measures for funded projects. It will be administered by the Secretary of Commerce in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Director of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Director of the National Science Foundation.

On Tuesday, President Obama made protecting and preserving our ocean and coastal resources a national priority by signing an executive order establishing the country’s first ever National Ocean Policy. The Policy will create more coordinated ocean governance, direct and prioritize research and restoration efforts, and create a process for implementing effective coastal and marine spatial planning. The National Endowment for the Oceans will provide the necessary funding to implement this much needed policy. Current federal funding for the research and protection of ocean and coastal regions is unreliable at best – subject to the yearly budget and appropriation process. 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 supplement their existing efforts. It will fund research to ensure that ocean policy decisions are based on sound science, and provide resources to ensure that regional planning entities can create and implement coastal and marine spatial planning that both manages and protects ocean and coastal resources.

The Endowment would be funded 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. This legislation has been endorsed by over 45 industry leaders, including The Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy, Coastal States Organization, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Save The Bay (Rhode Island), and the Ocean Exploration Trust. Bob Ballard, President of the Ocean Exploration Trust and the famed oceanography who discovered the Titanic, released a statement supporting the bill, saying in part, “I am pleased to offer my endorsement and pledge to work for its enactment into law.”


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