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February 2012 Issue

President Obama Transfering Elements of NOAA to Department of Interior
Elements of NOAA should be transferred to the Department of the Interior in order to "help businesses grow, save businesses time and save taxpayer dollars," U.S. President Barack Obama proposed in January. Moving elements of the agency from the Commerce Department to the Department of the Interior would require congressional approval to move forward.

"My favorite example—which I mentioned in last year's State of the Union address—as it turns out, the Interior Department is in charge of salmon in freshwater, but the Commerce Department handles them in saltwater," Obama said. "If you're wondering what the genesis of this was, apparently, it had something to do with President Nixon being unhappy with his Interior Secretary for criticizing him about the Vietnam War. And so he decided not to put NOAA in what would have been a more sensible place."

Some environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and National Weather Service Employees Union have voiced their reservations about the president's proposal.

"The move could erode the capabilities and mute the voice of the government's primary agency for protecting our oceans and the ecosystems and economies that depend on them," Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke told The Hill in January. "We understand the president's interest in creating a more nimble, coherent entity for economic policy; but that can be done without sacrificing the scientific and environmental strengths of NOAA and the independent perspectives it brings to critical issues."

Richard Hirn, general counsel and legislative director of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, told the Washington Post's Federal Eye blog that the plans to move NOAA to the Department of the Interior defies the original intent of the weather service. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had transferred to the Commerce Department from the Agriculture Department to aid in the growth of the aviation industry and respond to the need for better weather forecast capabilities.

White House Releases National Ocean Policy Draft Implementation Plan
The National Ocean Council in January released a draft National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan, which aims to protect the environmental and economic integrity of the nation's oceans, coasts and Great Lakes.

The plan's nine main objectives include addressing environmental changes in the Arctic and establishing nine regional coastal and marine spatial planning bodies by 2015. The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, the Offshore Wind Development Coalition and several representatives in Congress came out in support of the plan, with Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), among them.

"President Obama's ocean plans provide a framework for coastal communities to address some of the most pressing challenges to ensure healthy oceans, coasts and Great Lakes for present and future generations," Rep. Markey, ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said.

National Ocean Industries Association President Randall B. Luthi expressed his concerns about the plan, saying, "The use of coastal marine spatial planning may very well be a multilayered bureaucratic solution seeking a problem that doesn't exist."

The public comment period will be open until February 27, with the aim to complete and approve the final plan by spring, the White House said.

Department of Energy Gets $34 Million for MHK Research
U.S. President Barack Obama signed in December the fiscal year 2012 omnibus measure, which includes an energy and water bill that provides $34 million for marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) technology research.

Under the legislation, the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Water Power research and development program will receive $59 million, allocating $34 million to MHK development and $25 million to conventional hydropower.

Within the total funding amount, at least $10 million will be used to build infrastructure, including environmental performance monitoring, at National Marine Renewable Energy Centers.

The Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition (OREC) called the passage of the omnibus appropriations bill "another positive step" toward accomplishing its goal of 15 gigawatts of installed ocean MHK energy by 2013.

OREC President Sean O'Neill applauded the bill, saying, "MHK technologies, which draw from our nation's most abundant and reliable natural resource—ocean and current energy—will play a vital role in diversifying and securing our nation's energy supply as we move into the future."

Hillary Clinton Urges Support of UNCLOS
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in December voiced her support for the United States joining the United Nations Law of Sea Convention (UNCLOS).

"Signing onto the Convention is critical to protecting American security and enhancing our economic strength," Clinton said in remarks to the Pew Business Roundtable.

U.S. law requires that the Senate must ratify the nation's entry into international treaties. Opponents of the U.S. joining UNCLOS are concerned about whether the membership would relinquish U.S. domestic rights and authority to the international community.

Clinton said that the United States is at a competitive disadvantage, citing as an example that Chinese, Indian and Russian companies are exploring deep seabeds for rare earth elements and metals, but the United States cannot sponsor its companies to do the same.

"Joining the Convention will level the playing field for American companies so they have the same rights and opportunities as their competitors," Clinton said. "The Convention provides legal certainty and predictability that businesses can rely on."

Clinton said she was confident the U.S. would soon join the 160 other countries that have joined UNCLOS.



2013:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC
2012:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC

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