October’s Congressional Wrap Up

2019-11-12T13:10:53+00:00 November 12, 2019|
(Credit: Architect of the Capitol)

(Credit: Architect of the Capitol)

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What Passed

With an approaching deadline to finish appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2020, the Senate passed an appropriations package (H.R. 3055) containing their Commerce-Justice-Science (S. 2584); Agriculture (S. 2522); Interior-Environment (S. 2580); and Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (S. 2520) bills for FY 2020.

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology favorably reported legislation to protect scientific integrity in U.S. federal agencies, which now awaits a floor vote. If enacted, the Scientific Integrity Act (H.R. 1709) would require federal science agencies to adopt and enforce a scientific integrity policy or to formalize and strengthen their existing policies. The bill also includes requirements prohibiting scientific misconduct and barring agencies from impeding the release and communication of scientific or technical findings.

What’s New

The Ocean, Coastal, and Estuarine Acidification Necessitates (OCEAN) Research Act (S. 2699), which would reauthorize the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring (FORAM) Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-11), was introduced in the Senate. The bill aims to strengthen research and monitoring of acidification processes in ocean and coastal areas and engages coastal communities and the seafood industry in this effort.

Several bills addressing resiliency strategies in the face of climate change were introduced in the House, including measures directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to integrate climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience-building into policy and preparedness plans (H.R. 4823); instructing the Department of Homeland Security to conduct research and address the effects of climate change on national security (H.R. 4737); and calling for establishment of a Global Climate Change Resilience Strategy (H.R. 4732). Additionally, the Climate-Ready Fisheries Act of 2019 (H.R. 4679) would help prepare fishing communities and industry for current and anticipated impacts of climate change by examining current policy, identifying knowledge gaps, and providing recommendations for fisheries management.

In introducing legislation, some representatives turned their attention to issues regarding pollution and marine debris. The Partnering and Leveraging Assistance to Stop Trash for International Cleaner Seas (PLASTICS) Act (H.R. 4636) would advance efforts to improve waste management systems and reduce plastic waste by encouraging domestic and international cooperation between federal government and the private sector. The Ocean Pollution Reduction Act II (H.R. 4611) would simplify regulations for discharge of pollutants in San Diego, California, wastewater treatment plants to balance environmental protections with securing the city’s water supply.

Also introduced in the House, the Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act (H.R. 4887) aims to support the emerging offshore wind industry by extending tax credits for offshore wind facilities. COL also considered the topic of offshore wind last month at our 2019 Industry Forum, “Navigating Development of U.S. Offshore Wind: Sustainability and Co-Existence Through Science,” which examined the importance of collaboration, innovation, and localization, underpinned by science, for a substantial U.S. offshore wind industry.

What’s Next

Both chambers continue pushing to avoid a government shutdown by November 21, either by passing another long- or short-term continuing resolution to continue FY 2019 funding levels even further into FY 2020 or by passing the full set of spending bills, which will then need to be signed into law by the president. To do this, the House and Senate will need to conference on the four bills passed by both chambers, Commerce-Justice-Science (S.2584, H.R. 3055), Agriculture (S. 2522, H.R. 3164); Interior-Environment (S. 2580, H.R. 3052); and Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (S. 2520, H.R. 3163), as well as pass their remaining bills — two for the House and eight for the Senate — so they also can be then be reconciled in conference and sent to the president.

House and Senate conferees have not yet agreed on a final National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) measure for FY 2020 and will seek to resolve key differences in weeks to come. If this does not happen, the Senate introduced a “stripped-down” NDAA (S. 2731) containing the U.S. military’s must-pass provisions as a back-up plan.

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