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September 2011 Issue

Coast Guard Subcommittee Considers Reauthorization for Expiring Appropriations
The U.S. House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee held a hearing in July to prepare for reauthorization legislation for U.S. Coast Guard appropriations, which expire September 30. The subcommittee examined how it could address delays in U.S. Coast Guard acquisitions, challenges in administration of programs and parity issues between benefits and authorities available to Coast Guard members and the other armed services.

Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), subcommittee chairman, said he was concerned that the Coast Guard spent more than $3 billion over the last decade to build National Security Cutters, which the Government Accountability Office recently found provide little additional capability compared to the 40-year-old vessels they are replacing. He also expressed concern about the costs of the new Coast Guard headquarters being built in Washington, D.C., which were not included in fiscal year 2012 funding.

"Now we understand these costs may rise further as the appropriators have decided not to provide funding to move any additional agencies. These issues, among others, will be addressed in the next authorization," he said.

The subcommittee also discussed ways to resolve delays in selecting and acquiring cutter boats and unmanned aerial systems for the National Security Cutters. Such equipment is necessary for the cutters to see an increase in capability over the fleet they are replacing. Another issue discussed was that the Coast Guard lacks serviceable icebreakers for the now seasonally ice-free Arctic waters, and the Obama administration has not requested funds for new polar assets.

Hastings Debuts Draft Legislation Outlining MMS Restructuring
Working to codify the structural changes already taking place at BOEMRE, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) offered draft legislation in July to reorganize what was formerly the Minerals Management Service (MMS) into three separate branches.

Even before the reorganization into BOEMRE, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar had asked Congress to pass organic legislation for functions performed by the MMS. The draft legislation would formally abolish the MMS, creating three separate agencies: The Bureau of Ocean Energy would be responsible for the planning, leasing and environmental work; the Ocean Energy Safety Service would be responsible for permitting, safety and inspection; and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue would be responsible for royalty and revenue collection.

The draft bill would also require employees conducting safety inspections to have at least three years of experience in the oil and natural gas industry and a degree in an appropriate field. The draft legislation also calls for Salazar to "establish and maintain a national offshore energy health and safety academy" that would oversee initial and continued training of offshore oil and gas inspectors.

Rep. Farr Pushes for Reauthorization of
Marine Debris Act Through Fiscal Year 2016

Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) asked the U.S. House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation in July to help move forward H.R. 1171, an act that would reauthorize the Marine Debris Research, Prevention and Reduction Act through fiscal year 2016.

The previous act, signed into law in 2006, authorized $10 million annually through fiscal year 2010 for NOAA to implement a program to map, identify and conduct impact assessments of marine debris. It also authorized $2 million annually to the U.S. Coast Guard for enforcing MARPOL Annex 5 requirements, which prohibit the at-sea discharge of trash from vessels, and for conducting a variety of other marine debris prevention programs.

Senate Subcommittee Discusses Lessons From Deepwater Horizon Spill
The U.S. Senate Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard subcommittee held a hearing in July to discuss the ongoing response to and lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in regards to prevention, response and restoration.

"Looking ahead, there will be an increase in the number of offshore drilling units, and some of those will be in even deeper water," said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation chairman. "If we don't make smart decisions now, we could see a repeat of this disaster occur in Alaska or the Atlantic seaboard."

In addition, the subcommittee addressed the continuing challenges faced in the wake of the spill, the state of progress of damage assessment and restoration activities, and recommendations for improving the nation's oil spill prevention and response capacity.

House Democrats Defend NSF-Funded Marine Research
Ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Space, Science and Technology Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) released in July a staff report responding to claims made in May that the National Science Foundation (NSF) had wasted or mismanaged $3 billion in federal funds.

The committee report refutes the points presented in the Senate report prepared by Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-Okla.) staff, which highlighted "questionable" NSF-funded projects such as "how long can a shrimp run on a treadmill" and the Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, which funds artists' travel to Antarctica for writing and art projects.

The Johnson report surveyed scientists singled out in the Senate report. Researchers of the "shrimp on a treadmill" project Louis Burnett and Karen Burnett wrote that the treadmill research, videos of which were seen more than 1.5 million times on the Internet, was a small piece of a much larger research effort. They also said three of their NSF awards, totaling nearly $900,000 throughout the past 11 years, supported science scholarships for 90 U.S. undergraduates.

Cora Marrett, deputy director of the NSF said, "The NSF merit review process lies at the heart of the agency's strategy for accomplishing its overall mission. As such, NSF is continuously striving to maintain and improve the quality and transparency of the process."



2012:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC
2011:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC

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