Newly Introduced Ocean Bills Making Waves

2016-05-06T13:59:11+00:00 May 6, 2016|
Clouds over the Atlantic Ocean. (Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

(Click to enlarge) Clouds over the Atlantic Ocean. (Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Since the Consortium for Ocean Leadership Legislative Tracker was last updated on March 4th, 20 bills of interest to the ocean sciences community were introduced in Congress.

The first of several annual appropriations bills of interest is the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, S. 2804. Introduced by Senator Lamar Alexander (TN), this bill includes funding for the Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers coastal emergency funds. Representative Mac Thornberry (TX-13) dropped the annual National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4909) that will set the Department of Defense priorities for the upcoming fiscal year, including the Navy budget. The House Armed Services Committee passed H.R.4909 last week with a resounding 60-2 vote.

Senator Roger Wicker (MI) proposed the Gulf States Protection and Restoration Coordination Act, S. 2667, which would designate the Gulf of Mexico Alliance as a Regional Coordination Partnership of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration in order to increase coordination of volunteers and governmental authorities. Representative Ed Royce (CA-39)’s H.R. 4678 specifies that congressional approval would be required before any changes could occur at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee unanimously passed Representative Barry Loudermilk’s NSF Major Research Facility Reform Act, H.R. 5049, which provides additional oversight of future National Science Foundation (NSF) construction projects.

The six new ocean education bills are oriented toward improving the representation of women and minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Senator Mazie Hirono (HI) started the ball rolling with two pieces of legislation designed to improve diversity in STEM, the Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act (S. 2710) and the STEM Opportunities Act (S. 2784). Representative Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) introduced the House version of the Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act, H.R. 4803. Representatives Elizabeth Esty (CT-5) and Barbara Comstock (VA-10) worked to promote women in entrepreneurship (H.R. 4742) and to inspire women to enter the aerospace field (H.R. 4755), respectively. A gender neutral resolution (S.Res.411) to declare April 11-17 of this year as “National Science and Technology Week” was offered by Senator Christopher Coons (DE) and unanimously passed the Senate.

Senator Cory Booker (NJ) and Representative Richard Hudson (NC-8) are at odds on how to approach offshore energy. Sen. Booker (NJ)’s bill, S. 2841, would limit oil exploration activities on portions of the Atlantic margin, while Rep. Hudson (NC-8)’s bill, H.R. 4749, would support oil and gas lease sales for regions off the coast of his home state of North Carolina.

Senator Mazie Hirono (HI) and Representative Mark Takai (HI-1) introduced the Coral Reef Sustainability through Innovation Act, S. 2705 and H.R. 4811, to authorize the formation of a U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. Senator Ron Wyden (OR)’s Recreation Not Red Tape Act (S. 2706) would promote outdoor recreation on federal lands and waterways, and Senator Deb Fisher (NE) originated S. 2829 to enhance some maritime programs of the Department of Transportation. Further efforts in ocean and coastal management were introduced by Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2) in the form of the Digital Coast Act (H.R. 4738) to improve the availability of coastal data. Representative Carlos Curbelo (FL-26) is taking on invasive species with a bill (H.R. 4787) to award grants to combat lionfish in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Access the updated legislative tracker here: