Program Update: Advocacy – March 2014

Congressional calendar: week of March 31, 2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
11:00 AM
2168 Rayburn Bldg.

The Ocean Caucus Foundation is holding a panel discussion titled “Casting a Wide Net on IUU Fishing: Building Consensus Between Industry, NGOs, and Government.”

More information on the briefing and to RSVP can be found here.

Thursday, April 3, 2014
10:00 AM
1324 Longworth Bldg.

House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing titled “Department of the Interior, Spending and the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal.”

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Thursday, April 3, 2014
1:30 PM
B-308 Rayburn Bldg.

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on proposed FY15 appropriations for the United State Fish and Wildlife Service.

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Friday, April 4, 2014
11:00 AM
B-308 Rayburn Bldg.

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on proposed FY15 appropriations for the Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM).

More information on the hearing can be found here.

 

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The Administration unveiled its FY15 budget request on March 4th, which included flat funding request for research activities at NSF, a 3% increase in NOAA funding to support their polar and geospatial satellite programs, a 4% cut to Earth Science funding at NASA and a 7% cut to the Navy’s basic research accounts.  Historic funding tables for the agency can be found here.

Several appropriations hearings for FY15 are being held at the end of March into early April, including budget requests for science agencies such as National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Details on these hearings will be available in the next weekly newsletter.

On March 12, 2014, Consortium for Ocean Leadership held its 2014 Public Policy Forum with the theme of The Urban Ocean.  Participants heard from scientists, deans, directors, and presidents of research institutions, and policymakers, and discussed the impacts and implications of coastal population centers and their neighboring ocean. A complete summary of the forum will be made available in the coming weeks, as well as video and photos.

This month, the Senate confirmed France Córdova as National Science Foundation Director and Dr. Kathy Sullivan as NOAA Administrator and Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. Dr. Sullivan has been Acting NOAA Administrator since February 28, 2013, a move welcomed by Ocean Leadership President Bob Gagosian.

In mid-March, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act (FIRST ACT – H.R. 4186) was formally introduced by House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and was marked-up by the Research and Technology Subcommittee.  H.R.4186 would cut NSF’s Geosciences Directorate authorization by 3% and the Social and Behavioral Directorate by 45%.  Committee Democrats introduced a broader bill (H.R.  4159) that authorizes increased funding for multiple years, without targeting specific directorates.  Although partisan disagreement on funding was the main focus of the markup session, Democrats voiced concern over requiring National Science Foundation (NSF) officials to submit written explanations specifying how grants will meet the nation’s best interests, causing an additional burden for researchers. Committee Democrats also stated concerns with provisions relating to public access to research results and data, as well as the FIRST Act’s failure to address DOE programs. Consortium for Ocean Leadership shared these concerns in a letter to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith [R-TX]. Ocean Leadership signed onto a Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) letter expressing similar concerns in regards to funding levels.

Throughout March, discussion continued in both chambers on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). The Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, held its last regional perspective hearing, focusing on the North Pacific. Witnesses from Washington and Alaska overwhelmingly supported the reauthorization of the MSA with minimal changes. Witnesses expressed the position that North Pacific fisheries have been better managed than other regions and attributed this to strict state regulations prior to the 2007 MSA reauthorizations. Chairman Mark Begich [D-AK] and Ranking Member Marco Rubio [R-FL] are working together to draft a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the MSA; the draft is expected to be completed by early April.

In the House, at the request of Democrats on the Natural Resources Committee, an additional hearing was held to receive to testimony on Chairman Doc Hasting’s [R-WA] discussion reauthorization draft of the MSA. Witnesses advised the Committee to avoid drastic changes that could undermine the progress already made under the Act. Concerns over the need for better fishery science to support data-poor stocks were also addressed by panel witnesses.

Early in the month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved four fisheries treaties poised to end illegal fishing globally. As discussed in the number 229 newsletter, the United States signed the agreements between 2007 and 2012, and this Committee vote brings it closer to being ratified in the Senate. However, it is not clear whether or when they will be brought to the floor for a vote. 

Climate change and safe guarding communities were overarching themes for Congress in March. Democrats continued to be vocal about climate change, holding an all-night debate on the Senate floor, and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Oversight, held a hearing to focus on how the nation should prepare its land and wildlife to combat a changing climate. Several coastal members of the Committee traded stories about their states losing land to rising sea levels. Witnesses supported implementing natural adaption plans, such as restoring coastal wetlands and called for support of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s [D-RI] SAFE Act (S. 1201), which would require federal agencies to have these plans in place.

At the end of the month, The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) released a report titled “What We Know,” which assesses current climate science and impacts and strives to educate the public on these pressing issues.

Also this month, the Water and Power Subcommittee of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to consider the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Act of 2013 (S. 1419), which would authorize additional funding and research to advance marine energy sources. Witnesses’ discussed the abundance of marine hydrokinetic (MHK) resources domestically available; this includes, but is not limited to, ocean waves and currents.

As discussed in the number 225 newsletter, a finalized programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) for Atlantic Geological and Geophysical Activities was released on February 27 by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). A week prior to the release of the much anticipated report, over one hundred marine scientists signed a letter urging BOEM to incorporate new guidelines for exposure of marine mammals to underwater sound into the PEIS before it is finalized. Additionally, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council sent their own letter expressing concern over a lack of information regarding seismic impacts on fish behavior, marine mammals, and surrounding ecosystems.

A briefing regarding coastal zone management was held this month with Representative Sam Farr [D-CA] encouraging the audience to put a monetary value on environmental resources in order to promote better management of those resources. Also focusing on coastal issues, the University of Chicago hosted a briefing about resiliency and innovative scientific tools to promote environmental restoration and economic growth. Dr. Margaret Davidson from the National Ocean Service (NOS), NOAA, led the coastal resiliency panel of scientists from research institutions.  Deciphering a range of scientific data to create effective models such as ecosystem, climate, and economic models, to influence decision making at the federal, state, and local levels was the focus of the panel. Gaps in modeling between diverse habitats, such as watersheds and estuaries, are problematic when trying to execute thorough adaption plans. Dr. Jim Sanders, Director of Skidaway Institute of Oceanography used the Georgia Coastal Hazards Portal as an example for how coastal data can be successfully visualized. Dr. Sanders also mentioned the critical use of the Social Vulnerability Index, which allows a user to look at environmental impacts on different socioeconomic groups in the United States. In addition to the lack of in-depth data analysis and high resolution models, the need for enhancing natural barriers to combat nutrient pollution and storm surge were addressed.   


Consortium for Ocean Leadership