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June 2012 Issue

US House Votes to Halt Funding For National Ocean Policy
The U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment in May to halt implementation funding for the National Ocean Policy (NOP), in a vote of 246 to 174.

Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) offered the amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

“The National Ocean Policy creates a new layer of federal bureaucracy that has the potential to make major changes to the way inland, ocean and coastal activities are managed,” Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said. “Without knowing the potential jobs and economic ramifications of the policy, nor the amount of time, money and resources it will cost to implement, it is imperative that we halt funding so that these questions can be answered and proper congressional oversight can be conducted.”

Rep. Hastings sent two letters this year to the White House Council on Environmental Quality to ask about how funds have already been used to implement the NOP. He has not yet received complete answers, he said.

A coalition letter followed, signed by 83 industry groups and trade associations, asking that no funds be appropriated for NOP implementation until its jobs and economic implications have been further examined.

Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) expressed disbelief in the Republican push to defund the NOP, particularly because the party had previously backed a national ocean policy; e.g., President George W. Bush established the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy after the Oceans Act of 2000.


Committee Criticizes Delay In Offshore Drilling Plan
The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing in May to evaluate President Barack Obama’s offshore drilling plan for 2012 to 2017, released last fall.

The present offshore drilling plan expires on June 30. The new plan must be submitted to Congress for a 60-day review before the existing plan expires, Committee Chairman Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said, so the plan would have had to have been submitted by May 1.

The 2012 to 2017 program is scheduled to be finalized by the end of June, when the present program expires. The first lease sale under the new program is scheduled in the western Gulf of Mexico in November or December.

In his opening statement, Rep. Hastings said, “With gasoline prices still hovering near $4 a gallon and unemployment above 8 percent, the United States should be doing everything we can to ensure the timely and responsible production of our domestic energy resources... instead [of] pursuing an agenda that keeps 85 percent of our offshore areas closed to new American energy production.”

The plan closes the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and parts of the Arctic to drilling. Drilling would only be allowed in the Gulf of Mexico and parts of Alaska. Hastings criticized the plan for reinstating the drilling moratoria lifted in 2008.

Tommy Beaudreau, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), testified, “The administration is committed to promoting safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production as part of a comprehensive, all of-the-above energy strategy to grow America’s energy economy and continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Expanding safe and responsible development of the nation’s offshore oil and gas resources through leasing under the five-year program is an important part of that strategy.”

BOEM will hold Lease Sale 216/222, the last sale scheduled in the present five-year program, in New Orleans, Louisiana, on June 20.


NSF Budget Scrutinized for Inefficiencies
The U.S. House Subcommittee on Research and Science Education held an oversight hearing in May of the National Science Foundation (NSF), addressing concerns identified by the NSF Office of Inspector General (OIG).

Allison Lerner, NSF inspector general, testified that the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) confirmed its finding in 2010 that the proposed $386 million budget for the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) contained a total of $88 million in unallowable contingency funds, according to the Office of Management and Budget requirements.

Lerner also discussed fraud in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, including duplicate funding from more than one SBIR agency, conversion of award funds to personal use and false statements in order for businesses to be eligible for the program. She said that the NSF has implemented several OIG recommendations to avoid SBIR fraud.

In September 2011, the OIG reported it had found five research misconduct cases, identified more than $200,000 in questioned costs and recovered nearly $13 million for the government.


Reforms Called for in Surface Transportation Bill
U.S. House and Senate conferees charged with completing the final Surface Transportation Bill, which contains the RESTORE (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economies) Act, held their first meeting in May. The bill also includes H.R. 7, which encourages using all the amounts collected annually in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, called for reform: “We must give states more flexibility [in spending their returned gas tax revenue], and we must significantly reduce the federal bureaucracy by consolidating or eliminating duplicative and unnecessary programs.”

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), House Science, Space and Technology Committee ranking member, addressed the RESTORE Act, which would funnel revenue from Deepwater Horizon oil spill fines directly to the gulf region, instead of the U.S. Treasury, where Congress could use the funds for any purpose. “It is important that this bill provides the framework and guidance necessary to allow us to begin to really understand and, more importantly, mitigate the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on this unique ecosystem and our economy,” she said.



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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