DC is in a (frigid) flurry of activity right now. After a rainy day of swearing in ceremonies on Tuesday, the 115th Congress got to work, with 417 bills and resolutions introduced by the end of the day on Thursday as the temperature began to plummet and snow moved in. We’ve seen many of these in various forms over the last several Congresses, such as two bills introduced in both the House and Senate to authorize and strengthen tsunami detection, forecast, warning, research, and mitigation. While most of these have simply been referred to their appropriate committees, some have already received votes. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Weather Research Forecasting and Innovation Act, which ran out of steam in the waning days of the 114th Congress. The bill has already been reintroduced this Congress with a few changes (H.R. 353) and is slated for a vote on the House floor today.
Two bills that passed the House last week would have significant impacts on the federal rulemaking process – the REINS Act and the Midnight Rules Relief Act. The former would require Congress to approve all new major regulations while the latter would allow Congress, with a single vote, to repeal any rule that was finalized in the last 60 legislative days (read more about them here). While supporters of the bills see them as a way to increase transparency, this could lead to increased disregard of science in policy-making. Science underpins the rulemaking process – for regulations to be written, agencies must analyze a problem and determine several ways to address it while meeting scientific standards. The Federal Register’s guide to the rulemaking process explains that the agency must base final rules on factors that include “scientific data, expert opinions, and facts.” Politicizing this often years-long process would pull the rug out from under science-based rulemaking. We’ll be tracking these and other relevant bills as they make their way through the legislative process.
RADM Jonathan W. White, USN (ret.); M.S.
President and CEO
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
3D Ocean Map Tracks Ecosystems In Unprecedented Detail
A new 3D map sorts global water masses — from deep, frigid circumpolar waters to the oxygen-starved Black Sea — into 37 categories. The map groups together marine regions of similar temperature, salinity, oxygen and nutrient levels. It has been available for only a few months, and researchers are still working through how they might use it. But its international team of developers hopes that the map will help conservationists, government officials and others to better understand the biogeography of the oceans and make decisions about which areas to preserve.