Environment: GOP tries to block Obama ocean policy

House members make vague claims about ‘negative impacts’

A pristine Florida beach near Port St. Joe.
Shrimp boats in Apalachicola, Florida.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — House Republicans are moving to try and block President Obama’s National Ocean Policy by cutting of any funding for implementation.

The administration’s oceans policy is aimed at protecting, maintaining and restoring the health of economically critical marine ecosystems, thereby providing a sustainable flow of ocean resources for coastal communities, but the Republicans in Congress are more intent on continuing the short-term plunder of fisheries and other natural resources, with no thought about future generations. Read the final recommendations of the Ocean Policy Task Force at the Summit Voice Scribd feed.

Obama’s policy recognizes that increasing industrialization of the oceans, including energy development, aquaculture, and even the development of renewal energy sources pose a threat to marine ecosystems.

The oceans policy would help coordinate management of those resources and assessing cumulative impacts. Currently, several different federal agencies manage various uses under a wide range of sometimes conflicting laws.

But late last week, members of the House Natural Resources Committee sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers asking for a ban on spending for what they call Obama’s “ocean zoning.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“The proposed policy guidelines and processes in the National Ocean Policy have the potential to change the permitting criteria and requirements for a large number of economic sectors including agriculture, fishing (recreational and commercial), development of traditional and renewable energy, mining, power production, inland river transportation, maritime shipping, manufacturing, housing development, recreational boating, and tourism, among others. At a time when we are looking at all opportunities to address our struggling economic recovery, it is important that we closely examine how this overly ambitious effort will affect jobs as well as ocean, coastal and inland economies.”

The letters vaguely mention “negative impacts” on existing activities without ever describing anything specific.

Additionally, the letter takes issue with the creation of what the House GOP members called a large new bureaucracy to implement the oceans policy.

The draft National Ocean Plan Implementation Plan lists more than 100 outcomes, actions, and milestones for federal agencies to comply with beginning in 2011 and 2012.

The policy would support economically and culturally valuable fisheries, and also provide countless recreational opportunities for the public and protect critically important ecological services, such as air and water purification.




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