July 22, 2020

Whitehouse, Sullivan Testify on Marine Debris Crisis, SOS 2.0 Act

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) testified yesterday before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs (SFOPS) regarding U.S. efforts to combat the global marine debris crisis and the Save Our Seas (SOS) 2.0 Act, legislation introduced by Sullivan, Whitehouse and Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) that passed the Senate in January and is under consideration by the House.

Click here to watch Senator Whitehouse’s opening remarks. 

“I was glad to testify in yesterday’s subcommittee hearing along with my partner on ocean plastics, Senator Sullivan,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Plastic pollution and marine debris befoul all our oceans and hurt coastal communities in Rhode Island and across the world.  We asked for a fund to help clean up the plastic waste already filling our seas and to reduce the amount of new plastic dumped every year.  The Save Our Seas Act, now law, and our Save Our Seas 2.0 bill had bipartisan support, and this hearing suggests funding will be bipartisan too. I thank Chairman Graham and Ranking Member Leahy.”

Click here to watch Senator Sullivan’s opening remarks.

Click here to watch the full hearing (video starts at 00:26:30).

“With more coastline than the Lower 48 states combined, Alaska and its residents are keenly aware of the threat that marine debris poses to our pristine environment, our world-class fisheries, and our many coastal communities,” said Senator Sullivan. “SOS 2.0 is not a silver bullet, but it builds on the success of the Save Our Seas Act and will enable us to make even more significant progress in combatting plastic pollution. Senators Menendez, Whitehouse and I look forward to further action in the House on the bill and to continuing efforts in combating ocean pollution. I especially want to thank Senators Graham and Leahy and members of the subcommittee for their support and for helping to bring attention to this important global environmental challenge.”

The subcommittee also heard testimony from Jonathan Moore, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, and Michelle Bekkering, assistant administrator of the Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The SOS 2.0 Act is composed of three main pieces:

  • Strengthening the United States’ domestic marine debris response capability with a Marine Debris Foundation, a genius prize for innovation, and new research to tackle the issue.
  • Enhancing global engagement to combat marine debris, including formalizing U.S. policy on international cooperation, enhancing federal agency outreach to other countries, and exploring the potential for a new international agreement on the challenge. 
  • Improving domestic infrastructure to prevent marine debris through new grants for infrastructure and studies of waste management and mitigation.

The SOS 2.0 Act is cosponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Brian Schatz (D- Hawaii), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Angus King (I-Maine), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), in addition to Senators Whitehouse, Sullivan, and Menendez.


  • January 2020 – Senators Whitehouse, Sullivan and Menendez hold a colloquy on the Senate floor discussing the Senate’s unanimous passage of the SOS 2.0 Act.
  • January 2020 – The Senate votes unanimously to pass the SOS 2.0 Act.
  • November 2019 – the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee advances the final piece of the SOS 2.0 Act.
  • September 2019 – The Senate Environment and Public Works and the Senate Foreign Relations Committees advance two pieces of the SOS 2.0 Act.
  • July 2019 – Major stakeholders and media organizations react to the SOS 2.0 Act.
  • June 2019 – Senators Sullivan, Whitehouse and Menendez introduce the SOS 2.0 Act.
  • February 2019 – A new coalition of private sector businesses form the “Alliance to End Plastic Waste” and pledge $1.5 billion to help address the global marine debris crisis.
  • October 2018 – President Trump signs the Save Our Seas Act into law in an Oval Office ceremony. 
  • September 2018 – The House passes the Save Our Seas Act
  • August 2017 – Sullivan welcomes the director of the Marine Debris Program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to Alaska.
  • August 2017 – The Senate unanimously passes the Save Our Seas Act.
  • July 2017 – Senator Sullivan chairs a hearing of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard regarding the global marine debris crisis.
  • April 2017 – The Save Our Seas Act advances from the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
  • March 2017 – Senators Sullivan, Whitehouse and Booker introduce the Save Our Seas Act, legislation that was cosponsored by 19 of their Senate colleagues.
  • January 2017 – Senator Sullivan is named chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard.
  • December 2016 – The Senate passes the Marine Debris Act Amendments, introduced by Senators Sullivan and Booker.
  • May 2016 – Senator Sullivan chairs a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife on the marine debris crisis.

# # #

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921