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December 2011 Issue

Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill Passes House
H.R. 2838, the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011, passed the U.S. House of Representatives by voice vote in mid-November.

The legislation was introduced in the House by Coast Guard Subcommittee Chairman Frank A. LoBiondo (R-N.J.) and co-sponsored by Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla.).

The bill authorizes the service for fiscal years 2012 through 2014 and a service strength of 47,000 active duty personnel. The bill sets funding of $8.49 billion for the Coast Guard for fiscal year 2012, $8.6 billion for fiscal year 2013 and $8.7 billion for fiscal year 2014.

The bill's backers said H.R. 2838 includes provisions that will give the Coast Guard and its personnel greater parity with the Department of Defense.

Included in the legislation are provisions that set a nationwide standard for the treatment of ballast water. According to a press release from Republican House members, the bill "remedies the current patchwork of varying and inconsistent ballast water regulations across states."

The bill increases authority against piracy and expands an existing training program to instruct mariners on acceptable use of force against pirates. It authorizes armed security on vessels carrying government-impelled cargo through high- risk waters and includes a report on ways to improve U.S. efforts to track ransom payments and the movement of money through Somali piracy networks.

'YouCut' Targets NSF's Office of Polar Programs
As part of the House Republican's "YouCut" project, in which website visitors can vote on federal spending cuts, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) in November introduced H.R. 3396, a bill that would abolish the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs (OPP) and return any unobligated funds to the treasury. The OPP annually awards up to $25 million to researchers studying conditions in the Arctic.

In a YouTube video announcing the YouCut decision, Walsh singled out a $485,000 grant for website design and maintenance and a $322,000 grant for an artist and writers program as examples of waste at OPP. The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education.

Eliminating funding, however, would prevent research that is critically important to the United States, said Fran Ulmer, chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. "The Arctic is changing faster than any other place on the planet," Ulmer wrote in an October e-newsletter sent out by the commission. Ulmer said research is needed to allow responsible resource development of oil, gas, minerals, fisheries and forestry in the Arctic. She said funding the OPP a "small expenditure with a tremendous return on investment."

House-Led Hearings Find Industry Opposition to Obama's National Ocean Policy
The House National Resources Committee in October held an oversight hearing on the National Ocean Policy and its implementation, inviting those in the ocean industry to testify on the legislation's impact. Republicans subtitled the name of the hearing, "A Plan for Further Restrictions on Ocean, Coastal and Inland Activities."

National Ocean Industries Association President Randall Luthi said the association's central objection was the use of coastal and marine spatial planning. He said it was unclear "how a new layer of federal bureaucratic planning will yield any new economic activity, regulatory certainty or jobs beyond those federal jobs that might be created to do the planning itself." Luthi suggested delaying implementation of the policy until further study was completed.

Defending the legislation, Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, said the National Ocean Policy contributes to a healthy economy, promotes efficiency and certainty for decision making, provides data and information, and inspires partnerships. Also testifying at the hearing were Nancy Sutley, co-chair of the National Ocean Council; Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance; and Michael Conathan, director of ocean policy for the Center for American Progress.

Subcommittee Hears Concerns of US Ports
A hearing in October at the U.S. House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee focused on the importance of the nation's maritime trade system and the economic, environmental and global benefits of waterborne shipping.

"The federal government has all but ignored the nation's navigation channels, the gateways to world markets," said Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), chairman of the subcommittee. He cited funding of only $280 million for new navigation projects and the fact that only two of the nation's 10 largest ports are deep enough for the newest types of large vessels.

American Association of Port Authorities Chairman Jerry Bridges said despite investment from the private sector, the federal government was not keeping pace with industry or international competitors.

Bridges emphasized his association's support for advancing a reauthorization bill, including the need for a greater focus on freight transportation, improved connections to seaports and the inclusion of a maritime title in the bill.

Cantwell Amends Bill for Tsunami Debris Threat
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) in November introduced and secured passage of an amendment to address the threat of approaching tsunami debris.

Debris from the Japanese tsunami, triggered by an earthquake in March, are expected to reach U.S. mainland shores in 2014 and Hawaii's shores in 2013. Cantwell's amendment, included in the Trash Free Seas Act of 2011, would identify the tsunami debris as a unique threat and require the Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmo?sphere to develop an interagency action plan to help prepare for the debris.

"We can't wait until all of this tsunami trash washes ashore," Cantwell said at a hearing. "We need to have an aggressive plan on how we're going to deal with it."

The Trash Free Seas Act of 2011, introduced by Sen. Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii) in May, is meant to address the negative impacts that trash in oceans has on the marine environment, navigation safety and the economy.




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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