Nov 8 2012

National ocean policy sparks partisan fight

 Partisan battles are engulfing the nation’s ocean policy, showing that polarization over environmental issuesdoesn’t stop at the water’s edge.For years, ocean policy was the preserve of wonks. But President Obama created the first national ocean policy, with a tiny White House staff, and with that set off some fierce election-year fights.

 Conservative Republicans warn that the administration is determined to expand its regulatory reach and curb the extraction of valuable energy resources, while many Democrats, and their environmentalist allies, argue that the policy will keep the ocean healthy and reduce conflicts over its use.

The wrangling threatens to overshadow a fundamental issue — the country’s patchwork approach to managing offshore waters. Twenty-seven federal agencies, representing interests as diverse as farmers and shippers, have some role in governing the oceans. Obama’s July 2010 executive order set up a National Ocean Council, based at the White House, that is designed to reconcile the competing interests of different agencies and ocean users.

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