Jun 7 2012

Oceans Plan Meets Wave of GOP Resistance

 

  Congressional Quarterly Weekly – IN FOCUS

June 4, 2012 – Page 1137

  By Lauren Gardner | Staff Writer

 
Some lawmakers predict the new ocean policy will inevitably lead to new strict regulations on offshore drilling, wind power, commercial and recreational fishing, and boating.
On its face, the Obama administration’s plan to begin implementing its National Ocean Policy looks like something even the president’s most ardent opponents might like. The objective sounds innocuous enough safeguard the oceans and Great Lakes while encouraging sustainable development of offshore resources. The plan aims to achieve that goal by coordinating the many federal agencies that enforce the 140 laws affecting the oceans, coastlines and Great Lakes and by streamlining the process for granting various permits.ut President Obama’s critics in Congress are suspicious about the plan — and are aggressively moving to block it.
 

House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings, a Washington Republican, fears the blueprint will usher in ocean “zoning.” Texas Republican Bill Flores succeeded in attaching a rider to the fiscal 2013 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill that would bar any expenditures to implement the ocean policy, and Hastings vows to press for similar language in every spending bill that comes to the House floor.

 

The opposition reflects concerns by many of the industries that make a living in the coastal waters — including oil and natural gas producers, commercial fishermen and seafood processors, boat owners and operators, shippers, and sports fishermen. An industry-backed group called the National Ocean Policy Coalition backs efforts to delay the policy through appropriations riders, saying that “further policy development and implementation should be suspended until Congress, user groups, and the public have been fully engaged and all potential impacts have been assessed and are understood.”

 

Critics worry that the administration will pay for its initiative by siphoning money from programs that lawmakers intended to fund, and they complain that the White House is moving forward without congressional authorization. Some lawmakers predict the plan, which is expected to be put in final form this summer, will inevitably lead to new regulations that further burden business activities including offshore drilling, wind power, commercial and recreational fishing, deep-sea fish farming, and boating.

 

Spearheading support for an ocean policy are environmental groups such as Oceana, the Ocean Conservancy and the Pew Environmental Group — a roster that invites the suspicions of industry groups.

 

Even the co-chairmen of the Senate Oceans Caucus are divided. Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse calls the proposal a “very pro-business and very sensible means for rationally sorting out conflicting uses in a really important resource.” But Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski says flatly: “I don’t like it.”

 

“They’ve got an idea that sounds nice on paper, establishes all kinds of different programs,” she says. “And again, we’ve had no sense of funding or real direction.”

 
 Read the rest of the article on CQWeekly.com
 

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