May brought with it the enactment of a bill seven months in the making — the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (H.R. 244). While there was not much movement of science-related bills on the chamber floors, members introduced a flurry of new legislation relevant to the ocean science and technology community.
Perhaps in response to President Trump’s announcement that he is considering allowing companies to test for oil and gas off the Atlantic, a slew of bills regarding offshore drilling were introduced. The Keep It in the Ground Act of 2017 (H.R. 2242), COAST Anti-drilling Act (S. 999), Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act of 2017 (S.991), Florida Shores Protection and Fairness Act (S. 1041), and the Coastal Economies Protection Act (H.R. 2252) all targeted areas for limited or prohibited offshore drilling on the outer continental shelf, while the Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection Act (H.R. 2158) and the Seismic Moratorium Act (H.R. 2469) would prevent even surveying for potential drill sites. On the other side of the aisle, the OCEAN Act (H.R. 2157, S. 956) would limit the ability of any president to protect the continental shelf from oil drilling. In striding for greener alternatives to oil, the Marine Energy Act (S. 1036) seeks to promote research and development of ocean and hydrokinetic renewable energy technologies. The 100 by ’50 Act (S. 987) sets a lofty goal to completely transition away from fossil fuel sources of energy by 2050, and legislation to improve the ability of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and coastal states to prepare for and respond to oil spills was found in the Marine Oil
Spill Prevention Act (H.R. 2261).
Several bills regarding ocean and coastal governance and protection were introduced or saw movement. The Coast Guard Improvement and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 1726) and the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017 (S. 1129, H.R. 2518) aim to improve the performance of and to reauthorize the Coast Guard (both authorizing bills passed out of their respective committees). In the same vein, the Federal Maritime Commission Authorization Act of 2017 (S. 1119) would reauthorize the Federal Maritime Commission, which is responsible for regulation of our international ocean-borne transportation. The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2017 (S. 1057), which direct more funds to mitigation of marine and freshwater blooms, passed out of committee and awaits action on the Senate floor. The Shark Sales Elimination Act of 2017 (H.R. 2463), which would prohibit the sale of shark fins or other parts, and the Save our Seas Act of 2017 (S. 756) which would reauthorize and amend the Marine Debris Act (P.L. 100-449) were both introduced.
In the education realm, a bipartisan update to a decade-old education law, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353), passed out of committee and awaits action on the House floor.
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