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.
Last week, nearly identical anti-NOP riders made an appearance in two House appropriations bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018– the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill and the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill – barring use of funds to implement “coastal and marine spatial planning and ecosystem-based management components of the National Ocean Policy.” The exact same riders were part of the FY 2017 House Interior and Energy and Water bills and were eventually dropped in conference and are not part of the 2017 Consolidated Omnibus Appropriations bill. Riders are legislative provisions in appropriations bills that change existing laws or regulations and are often political.
The $31.4 billion Interior bill passed out of subcommittee last week and is slated for a full committee markup on Tuesday. The legislation cuts spending levels for the Department of the Interior and other independent agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, by 2.5 percent from the $32.3 billion FY 2017 enacted level. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) would be funded at $1 billion, $46 million below the FY 2017 enacted level. In line with the administration’s goal of achieving energy independence, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) would be funded at $114.2 million, a 53 percent increase from the FY 2017 enacted level, and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement would receive $108.5 million (compared to $83.1 million in FY 2017). Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11) praised the legislation as “stop[ping] harmful and unnecessary regulations that destroy economic opportunity and kill jobs.” Conversely, committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (NY-17) expressed her strong distaste for the decreased funding for climate research across several agencies, lamenting, “We are at a critical juncture when we should be investing more in preventing climate change and protecting our natural resources, not making draconian cuts that would damage the world around us for generations to come.” Ranking Member Betty McCollum (MN-4) highlighted partisan policy riders that, “seek to turn back protections for endangered species and undermine clean water and clean air protections.” Several committee Democrats shared Ranking Member McCollum’s sentiments, fearing the bill threatens environmental protections such as the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States rule and federal regulations of lead content in fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
During the full committee markup of the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, which provides $37.6 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Energy programs, and national defense nuclear weapons activities, Ranking Member Lowey called out “harmful policy riders,” including the anti-NOP language. While the bill provides $3.3 billion more than the president’s request (but $203 million less than the FY 2017 enacted level), committee Democrats lambasted the bill as “inadequate … with damaging cuts to critical investments in clean energy, advanced energy research, and nuclear nonproliferation.” The legislation would increase defense funding by $1.1 billion but would reduce nondefense funding by $1.3 billion. Additionally, the energy research funding would largely go towards nuclear weapon activities, rather than renewable and energy efficiency research (the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see a $986 million cut to $1.1 billion). The bill would increase funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to $6.2 billion, which is a $120 million increase over FY 2017 enacted levels.