Sooner or later, Congress will have to start wading through dozens of fights that go along with re-approving the key law that governs federally managed fisheries. Sen. Dan Sullivan is pushing for sooner, pressing the Commerce Committee to start advancing a revisit of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, historically brushed up in Washington every decade or so, but not since 2007. As part of Sullivan's effort to advance MSA to re-authorization, the Republican senator on Wednesday convened a meeting in Soldotna for a subcommittee that deals with fishery policy to hear testimony from a variety of industry leaders. State and federal government leaders were among the 14 panelists, and so were commercial and sport fish business owners.
Panel sought to help businesses and state and local governments prepare for the effects of global warming. President Donald Trump's administration has disbanded a government advisory committee that was intended to help the country prepare for a changing climate. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration established the committee in 2015 to help businesses and state and local governments make use of the next national climate assessment. The legally mandated report, due in 2018, will lay out the latest climate-change science and describe how global warming is likely to affect the United States, now and in coming decades.
President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that he said would streamline the approval process for building infrastructure such as roads, bridges and offices by eliminating a planning step related to climate change and flood dangers. Speaking in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Trump said that the approval process for projects was “badly broken” and that the nation’s infrastructure was a “massive self-inflicted wound on our country.” Trump said that “no longer” would there be “one job-killing delay after another” for new projects. But he did not provide any proposal on how his much-promised infrastructure program would be financed or what it would include.
The Pentagon has released its long-anticipated report detailing plans to restructure the organizations that manage acquisition and technology research for the Department of Defense. The so-called Section 901 report, officially titled "Restructuring the Department of Defense Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Organization and Chief Management Officer Organization," was delivered to Congress on Aug. 1.
The Trump administration on Tuesday chose not to list the Pacific bluefin tuna as an endangered species, rejecting a petition by the largest global conservation group that the U.S. is a member of, with France, South Korea, Australia, and several other countries. The Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries Service announced the decision after a 12-month review of the request that started under the Obama administration.
A climate report based on work conducted by scientists in 13 federal agencies is under active review at the White House, and its conclusions about the far-reaching damage already occurring from global warming are at odds with the Trump administration’s views. The report, known as the Climate Science Special Report, finds it is “extremely likely” that more than half of the rise in temperatures over the past four decades has been caused by human activity — in contrast to Trump Cabinet members’ views that the mag nitude of that contribution is uncertain.
Making science-based decisions requires data and information. Ocean and coastal policies and management decisions also require current and robust observations and monitoring. All three bipartisan bills will advance monitoring and research of the ocean, Great Lakes, and fisheries through grants, linking programs (ICOOS and FOARAM) and topics (ocean observations with sound and with economy), and by updating important indices.
Despite broad agreement that the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) has worked incredibly well – currently, 90 percent of U.S. stocks fall below their annual catch limits, making the U.S. a world leader in fisheries management – there was disagreement on how to update the law to make it as effective as possible.
Nothing in COL’s legislative tracker was signed into law this month, but several items did pass out of committee, the House, or the Senate. Notably, the Save Our Seas Act of 2017 (S.756) passed the Senate with unanimous consent last week. The legislation (and its counterpart in the House (H.R. 2748)) reauthorizes and amends the Marine Debris Act (P.L. 109-332) “to promote international action to reduce marine debris.”
Dry weather continues to be problematic for Western states, and climate change predictions indicate droughts will only worsen. The president’s budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 proposes funding cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by 16 percent – and the proposed four percent decrease to the agency’s National Weather Service would challenge the program. The National Weather Service plays a crucial role in understanding drought patterns, preparing communities for limited water availability, and helping scientists understand the changing climate. Stakeholders say forecasting research and technology innovations are key to future preparedness.
On Thursday, the House passed an appropriations “minibus” (H.R. 3219) in a mostly-partisan 235-192 vote. The minibus combines the Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water, and Legislative Branch appropriations bills; Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11) said the package “ensure[s] the safety of the homeland and the American people.” An effort from several Democrats, led by Representative Chellie Pingree (ME-1), to reverse the National Ocean Policy implementation funding prohibition was rejected 192-235.
Eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year – and in total, the amount already in existence outweighs each human by ten to one (approximately the same as a cow or female giraffe), according to Dr. Melissa Duhaime (Assistant Professor, University of Michigan). At a hearing held by the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, lawmakers explored efforts to tackle marine debris in the ocean and Great Lakes. Marine debris refers to any kind of discarded human litter, including derelict fishing equipment; sunken vessels; and trash from fabrics, metal, cardboard, or other substances, but the most abundant – and problematic – form is plastic.
Few ships have a strong enough hull, the appropriate shape, or enough power to push through multiple meters of solid sea ice. Icebreakers are becoming increasingly necessary ships for the Coast Guard as the climate warms and the Arctic thaws, opening the once-inaccessible area to traffic and foreign nations like Russia and China. The House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation held a hearing to discuss these much-needed vessels (vital for conducting Artic research) with the Coast Guard.
The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a Research and Technology subcommittee hearing on Wednesday to explore the future of STEM and computer science education in the United States to prepare today’s youths for much-needed science and engineering jobs. Citing American students’ 19th (science) and 31st (mathematics) rank out of 35 countries, Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (TX-21) advocated the need to “capture and hold the desire of our nation’s youth to study science and engineering so they will want to pursue these careers.” His STEM Education Act of 2015 (P.L.114-5) encourages students to enter STEM fields.
Prior to the Chesapeake Bay Program, the largest bay in the country was so polluted and disease-ridden that oysters, seagrass beds, and blue crabs declined in alarming numbers, threatening the economy of the region and wreaking havoc on ecosystems. Since the creation of the program in 1983, the conditions in the bay have been slowly, but surely, improving. The HELP for Wildlife Act (S. 1514), which passed out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public by a vote of 14-7, is a comprehensive (though controversial) recreational hunting and conservation bill that reauthorizes the Chesapeake Bay Program.
On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Appropriations passed the $53.4 billion Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2018 (S.1662) bill in a 30-1 vote. “The committee has made difficult but responsible decisions to produce a bill that strikes a financial balance between the competing priorities of law enforcement, national security, scientific advancement, and economic development,” declared Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Richard Shelby (AL). In the Senate bill, the National Science Foundation (NSF) would be funded at $7.31 billion, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at $5.59 billion, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at $19.5 billion, representing cuts from FY 2017 of 2.2 percent, 1.5 percent, and 0.6 percent, respectively. The total reductions in the bill amount to $3.2 billion below the FY 2017 enacted level, but overall funding remains $4.4 billion above the president’s budget request.
Only 31 years ago, fleets from foreign countries could fish as close as 12 nautical miles to the United States shoreline. Fish populations were severely depleted, impacting livelihoods for fishers and threatening biodiversity. As a result, Congress passed the bipartisan Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). This law extends U.S. jurisdiction to 200 nautical miles, uses science-based management to rebuild stocks and prevent overfishing, and ensures an economically sustainable yield via quotas and annual catch limits. The 1976 law created eight regional fishery management councils and has been updated twice, once in 1996 and again in 2007. Thanks to these efforts, U.S. fish populations are rebuilding, and now, 90 percent of fisheries fall below their annual catch limits. Last week, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing to discuss areas for improvement to consider upon reauthorization. Both sides of the aisle praised the successes of the law and conceded need for change but had different ideas for what those alterations might be.
What do blue whales, loggerhead sea turtles, southern bluefin tuna, dugongs, manatees, sea otters, hammerhead sharks, and Elkhorn corals have in common? They’re all listed as endangered – and therefore federally protected – under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). With alarming numbers of North Atlantic right whale deaths and fishing entanglements this summer, this 1973 law is at the forefront of marine scientists’ minds. In a House Natural Resources hearing on Wednesday, the full committee gathered to discuss five Republican-authored bills to reform the landmark act. The majority press release identifies the goals of the bills as increasing responsibilities of states, improving data transparency, altering listing and delisting processes, and discouraging costly lawsuits.
The nation’s water infrastructure is in a truly dire state; with a D+ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers, it is time for an update. Last week, the House and Senate held hearings to address this issue. The House Transportation Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment focused on the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). Chairman Garret Graves (LA-6) said the Corps has an “absolutely critical mission,” which centers around building and maintaining infrastructure that bolsters the economy while integrating environmental sustainability. However, both sides of the aisle were concerned with the Corps’ backlog of unfinished projects and lack of implementation guidance for the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (P.L.113-121) and the Water Resources Development Act of 2016.
At a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, as lawmakers explored the potential for offshore drilling in Alaska and the Atlantic, seismic testing was once again a controversial topic. Seismic tests are used to determine the presence and abundance of oil; registering at 120 decibels, Representative Jared Huffman (CA-2) said the blasts have “an enormous and obvious impact" on marine mammals. Witness Nikki Martin (President, International Association of Geophysical Contractors) disagreed, claiming that there is no scientific evidence showing harm to marine mammals (despite studies showing otherwise).
Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed their Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill by a margin of 30-1. The Senate bill, which passed out of the Energy and Water subcommittee earlier in the week, clocks in at $629 million above the FY 2017 enacted level and a staggering $4.1 billion above President Trump’s request. The $38.4 billion bill, which prioritizes energy security and nuclear capabilities, funds Department of Energy (DOE) programs (including energy development and research) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) infrastructure projects.
On Wednesday, the House Appropriations committee approved the Interior and Environment appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 in a 30-21 vote. This budget represents an $824 million decrease from the FY 2017 enacted level, which Subcommittee Ranking Member Betty McCollum (MN-4) said she was “deeply disappointed” about, although the president’s budget request would have provided $4.3 billion less. The bill’s $31.4 billion includes $114.2 million for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (matching the president’s request), $108.5 million for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (a more than 30 percent increase from FY 2017), and $1.039 billion for the U.S. Geological Survey ($46 million less than the FY 2017 level).
The Trump administration on Thursday announced its first offshore oil and gas lease sale, offering 76 million acres (30 million hectares) in the Gulf of Mexico and reduced royalty rates for shallow-water leases to encourage drilling at a time of low oil prices.
Focus on Justice, Not Climate Science, In House Commerce, Justice, and Science Bill — Which Drastically Cuts NOAA Funding
Last week, the House Appropriations Committee passed their version of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, which includes funding proposals for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). During the full committee markup of the bill, which covers a vast array of other agencies and largely prioritizes law enforcement issues like terrorism, cybersecurity, espionage, the opioid epidemic, and border security, both subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (TX-7) and Ranking Member José Serrano (NY-15) expressed their appreciation for each other’s collaboration and friendship during the drafting of the bill, despite their dissimilar policy stances.
House Appropriators Advance Interior and Energy-Water Appropriations Bills – With National Ocean Policy Riders
President Obama’s 2010 Executive Order 13547, Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes, commonly referred to as the National Ocean Policy (NOP), is designed to protect, maintain, and restore the health of ecosystems and resources of the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes; to enhance the sustainability of ocean and coastal economies; to preserve maritime heritage; to support sustainable uses and access; and to coordinate with our national security and foreign policy interests. Since its inception, it has been a controversial topic, with Democrats lauding its science-based decision making, benefits to stakeholders, economic growth, and sustainable development and Republicans considering it as executive overreach and a vehicle for new regulations.
In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon disaster oozed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, wreaking environmental havoc, turning tourists away from Gulf beaches, and costing Gulf states millions in recovery costs and lost revenue. According Ms. Margaret S. Howell (Founder, Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic), disasters like this have made East Coast residents hesitant to bring offshore drilling to the Atlantic. This idea was at the center of debate in a House Natural Resources hearing when the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources met to evaluate federal offshore oil and gas development on the outer continental shelf (OCS). One of the controversial topics explored was the potential for Atlantic coast development, which would first require seismic geological testing to determine the presence and abundance of oil. The environmental, economic, and safety impacts of both seismic testing and oil rigs were fiercely debated.
The phrase “climate change” typically conjures up images of drowning polar bears, melting icebergs, and eroding beaches. But did you know climate change may have been instrumental in the political instability that lead to the rise of terrorist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram? At a roundtable discussion presented by House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30) and Vice Ranking Member Don Beyer (VA-8), scientists, military experts, and international specialists described the ever-growing threat of climate change to national security. Committee members were present to voice their strong support for climate science funding and coastal resiliency.
On Friday, the House approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018 (H.R. 2810), which authorizes activities for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the national security activities of the Department of Energy, in a bipartisan manner (344-81) after reviewing over 200 amendments.
An official from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) told The Hill the department's science division is staffed, despite a report saying the last three employees of the division left last week. CBS News reported on Friday three staffers, who were holdovers from the Obama administration, departed the office last week, leaving the science division unstaffed.
Earth Science Given “Low Priority” Status In House Appropriations Bill That Would Also Reduce NOAA Funding?
While President Trump proposed some of the most dramatic budget cuts in recent history, Congress ultimately has the responsibility of appropriating funds. Last week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science marked up their Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 bill, which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), [...]
Astronauts walking across the surface of the moon and floating in zero gravity have inspired kids (and grown-ups) for decades; these near super-humans are truly living the dream. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), established in 1958, continues to inspire the American public – and seemingly no one wants to see its funding reduced.
Gray wolves were nearly driven to extinction, but in 1995, they were re-introduced to Yellowstone National Park. The ecological benefits have had a ripple effect and continue to fascinate scientists. National parks conserve land for future generations and protect the species that live there. National marine sanctuaries are the aquatic analogue to national parks, providing “a safe habitat for species close to extinction or protect[ing] historically significant shipwrecks.”
In addition to managing federal lands, the Department of the Interior (DOI) “supports stewardship and collaborative conservation and management” of the U.S. ocean, Great Lakes, and coastal resources. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hosted a hearing to examine the policy impacts of litigation against the department.
The month of June introduced a flood of new bills, particularly surrounding flood insurance reform. The National Flood Insurance Program is $24.6 billion in debt and storms are only increasing in frequency and intensity, leaving lawmakers searching for improvements as the program’s current authorization nears expiration.
The House Armed Services Committee’s annual defense policy bill will include a provision requiring a Defense Department report on the effects of climate change on military installations. The amendment — brought up by Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) in the readiness portion of Wednesday’s markup — instructs each military service to come up with a list of the top 10 military installations likely to be affected by climate change over the next 20 years. The report would include a list of possible ways to combat such climate change threats as flooding, droughts and increased wildfires.
After much debate, five flood insurance bills were approved (three with bipartisan support) on Wednesday afternoon at a markup held by the House Financial Services Committee. The bills are part of a package to reauthorize and reform the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is $24.6 billion in debt and whose current authorization expires September 30. While Republicans and Democrats on the committee have a shared goal of reducing this debt, Democrats withheld support for some of the bills over concerns that the they would raise premiums for policyholders and leave citizens uninsured.
On Thursday evening, in the packed foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building, people lined up to try on 3D outer space goggles, explore cutting-edge stream water models, and meet the brilliant scientific minds who worked on these projects.
Hardly anyone would play Russian roulette with a one-in-six chance of fatality. Representative Don Beyer (VA-8) drew this analogy at a roundtable discussion on Tuesday, wondering why the United States would take a gamble on climate action when 97 percent of climate scientists agree the climate is changing. At the roundtable hosted by Ranking Member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), scientists and climate policy experts discussed the scientific basis for climate action and the international ramifications of climate policies.
Hurricanes this century have cost thousands of Americans their lives and billions of dollars in damage; Hurricane Katrina alone killed 1,833 people and cost the government $108 billion. Weather forecasting is of utmost importance to save lives, property, and money, especially in light of the changing climate. In a hearing held by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Subcommittee on Environment, scientists and professionals in the environmental technology industry discussed the potential for public-private partnerships to strengthen weather forecasting and to improve oceanic data collection.
Ocean territories surrounding the United States cover 3.4 million square nautical miles – more than the entire land area of all 50 states. The Department of the Interior (DOI) has the literally enormous responsibility of “support[ing] stewardship and collaborative conservation and management” of these ocean, Great Lakes, and coastal resources. DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke defended the president’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 at a series of hearings this week before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, and the House Natural Resources Committee.
Brock Long was cleared by the Senate to become President Donald Trump’s emergency-management director Tuesday after gaining the support of one unlikely constituency: environmentalists. While climate advocates panned Trump’s selections to head the Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department, they expressed optimism that Long, Alabama’s former emergency manager, would seek to protect Americans from the increased risks of hurricanes, flood and heat waves linked to global warming.
In July 2015, the United Nations General Assembly began the long process of developing an international, legally-binding treaty under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (UNGA Resolution 69/292).
Imagine a trip to the Chesapeake Bay without feasting on their iconic oysters. In recent years, wild oyster populations have been devastated by factors both manmade and natural. Although wild-caught oysters face restoration issues, aquaculture (which is essentially seafood farming) is a growing industry providing shellfish to the market. After success in the Chesapeake region, entrepreneurs around the country have jumped on board over the past three decades to begin their own aquaculture businesses raising oysters, fish, and even seaweed.
Imagine our country being on the verge of a second Industrial Revolution – an economic boom so powerful that it alters the United States economy – and the world’s – forever. This is the picture Dr. Doug McCauley (Assistant Professor, Marine Science Institute, University of California Santa Barbara) painted at the beginning of a congressional briefing, hosted by COMPASS, entitled “Counting on Ocean Benefits: A science briefing on the links between the ocean, our economy, and human well-being.”
When most people enter a hiking trail with several days’ worth of food, they’re at the start of a camping adventure. For residents of Big Sur, California, they’re making one of many weekly trips back from the grocery store. Four months ago, a mudslide collapsed a bridge, making the small hiking path the only access to the outside world for much of Big Sur.
After a recent series of severe storms over several years resulted in $24.6 billion of debt, Democrats and Republicans agreed that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) could be improved before reauthorization. They disagreed, however, on how to make that happen.
(Click to enlarge) U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, third from right, snaps a picture with other energy ministers at an international clean energy conference in Beijing last week. (Credit Ng Han Guan/Associated Press) WASHINGTON — The Energy Department is closing an office that works with other countries to develop clean energy technology, another [...]
The National Science Foundation (NSF) supports critical and potentially life-saving research across the United States, such as studies to predict risks associated with earthquakes and tsunamis along the Cascadia subduction zone. The president’s budget recommendation for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 for NSF is $6.65 billion, an 11 percent decrease from the enacted budget for FY 2017. This is the only time a president has ever proposed a cut to the agency’s top line in its 67-year history.
Red Snapper And Proposed Budget Cuts Snap Attention Of Senators During Appropriations Committee Hearing
The Department of Commerce (DOC) touches your life in more ways than you’d imagine, impacting areas from trade to economic development to weather forecasting. On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science held a hearing to discuss the president’s budget recommendations for the DOC for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. Senators from both sides of the aisle were concerned with the proposed steep cuts, which represent a 15.8 percent decrease from FY 2017 enacted levels and highlighted programs, including Sea Grant, that have tremendous returns on investment for their states.
Imagine what our knowledge of the world today would be like without satellite images of Earth. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Earth Sciences mission has fundamentally altered and improved our understanding of the atmosphere, ocean, land, weather, climate, and ecosystems – and now, the resources that support this science are under attack.