December’s Congressional Wrap Up

2019-01-15T16:41:28+00:00 January 15, 2019|
(Credit: Architect of the Capitol)

(Credit: Architect of the Capitol)

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What Passed

December was busy for ocean science legislation as it was the last month before the start of a new Congress. All bills not signed into law by the end of the 115th Congress must be reintroduced and start the legislative process anew if they want to be considered in the 116th Congress.

The Commercial Engagement Through Ocean Technology (CENOTE) Act of 2018 (S. 2511; P.L. 115-394), signed into law Dec. 21, encourages partnerships between academia, the private sector, and the government in the realm of ocean observation. CENOTE, which Consortium for Ocean Leadership strongly supports, directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to coordinate development of unmanned maritime systems through partnerships with the Navy, universities, and private industry and make data readily available through the Integrated Ocean Observing System.

The Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018 (S. 140; P.L. 115-282) was signed into law at the beginning of the month, authorizing the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Maritime Commission through fiscal year (FY) 2019, reauthorizing NOAA’s hydrographic services program through FY 2023, and modifying the regulation of vessel incidental discharge and ballast water.

In fisheries-related bills, the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management (Modern Fish) Act (S. 1520: P.L. 115-405) passed both chambers and was signed into law. This bill updates policies in mixed-use fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico to expand recreational fishing opportunities and encourages NOAA to collaborate with recreational anglers to improve its recreational fishing data collection.

The House passed the Offshore Wind for Territories Act (H.R. 6665), which would amend federal law to authorize offshore wind energy development in the Exclusive Economic Zone adjacent to all five U.S. territories.

What’s New

Two bills aimed at raising U.S. presence in the Arctic were introduced in December. The Arctic Policy Act (APA) of 2018 (S. 3739) would amend the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 to try and increase local and indigenous voices in federal science and policy by modifying the membership of the Arctic Research Commission. The Shipping and Environmental Arctic Leadership (SEAL) Act (S. 3740) establishes a congressionally-charted seaway development corporation in the Arctic to collect voluntary maritime shipping fees from vessels utilizing the region – funding resources and infrastructure necessary to ensure safety, security, and management of the Arctic.

What’s Next

A partial government shutdown began on December 21, 2018, when Congress failed to pass FY 2019 appropriations bills or a continuing resolution (CR) due to controversial funding for the Department of Homeland Security. This impacts important science agencies such as NOAA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Until Congress passes another continuing resolution (CR) or FY 2019 appropriations bills, unfunded agencies will remain closed.

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Want to receive articles like this straight to your inbox? Sign up for our newsletter!