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Capital Report


March 2013 Issue

First Congressional Maritime Congress Established
Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) formed in February the first-ever U.S. Congressional Maritime Caucus. It will operate as a forum and information distribution center in the U.S. House of Representatives where members of Congress can turn for material on maritime issues, legislation and initiatives.

Reps. Richmond and Grimm expect to welcome a host of representatives to the caucus who understand the importance of a strong U.S. Merchant Marine.\

“The Congressional Maritime Caucus represents a huge step forward for the maritime industry giving us a unified and concentrated voice on Capitol Hill,” said Mike Jewell, president of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association. “This important initiative will work hand-in-glove with the grassroots maritime action committees that are already in place in numerous congressional districts across the country to spread the maritime message.”

Hurricane Sandy Relief Aid Signed Into Law Without Funding for Coastal Marine Spatial Planning
U.S. President Barack Obama has signed into law the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, which provides $50.7 billion in federal aid for recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

An amendment from Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), agreed to with a 221-197 vote, removed $150 million in funding for NOAA’s Regional Ocean Partnership grants, which would support regional ocean partnerships and the development of coastal marine spatial plans.

Those opposing Flores’ amendment argued that funding the Regional Ocean Partnership’s grants would help states affected by Hurricane Sandy recover faster and enable them to better prepare for and mitigate extreme weather events and risks.

Under the law, NOAA will receive up to $476 million: $290 million for operations, research and facilities, and $186 million for procurement, acquisition and construction for its damaged facilities and repairs and upgrades to its hurricane reconnaissance aircraft. Included is $50 million for mapping, charting and geodesy services and marine debris surveys in states impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The agency’s weather satellite data mitigation gap reserve fund will receive $111 million.

With the $9.7 billion aid package signed into law in January, federal aid for Hurricane Sandy totals $60.4 billion.

Begich Introduces Bills to Halt FDA Approval Of Genetically Engineered Salmon
As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers the approval of genetically modified salmon, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) introduced two pieces of legislation banning the fish in February.

The FDA is examining an application from AquaBounty Technologies’ (Maynard, Massachusetts) to sell its genetically modified AquAdvantage salmon. The agency extended the comment period on the application, originally slated to end in February, until April 26. Begich’s Prevention of Escapement of Genetically Altered Salmon in the United States (PEGASUS) would make it illegal to produce, sell or ship genetically engineered salmon in the U.S., unless NOAA finds it would have no significant impact. Begich’s second bill would require any genetically engineered salmon product to be labeled as such, a proposal the FDA has rebuffed.

Late last year, the FDA found no significant impact on the proposal from AquaBounty Technologies to produce a hybrid Atlantic salmon modified with a Chinook salmon growth gene and an antifreeze gene from an eel-like fish, the ocean pout. The FDA reviewed the AquaBounty proposal not as a food product but as a veterinary drug. If approved, the salmon would be the first genetically modified animal to be sold for consumption.

Opponents of genetically modified salmon are concerned about the potential impacts on human health and the environment, especially if the salmon are accidentally released into the wild.

Murkowski Unveils Long-Term US Energy Plan
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (D-Alaska), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, published her plan for U.S. energy sources and policies in February, outlining several goals with deadlines in 2020.

One of these goals is for the U.S. to achieve independence from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Murkowski’s report finds this goal feasible since over the past decade the U.S. has seen its reserve portfolio grow substantially (largely in part due to previously subeconomic resources, like shale oil) and domestic energy production has increased.

To become independent from OPEC, the U.S. government would need to permit the construction of the Keystone XL and other domestic pipelines, streamline the offshore leasing processes (specifically repealing the recent additional requirements on shallow-water Gulf of Mexico drillers) and expand leasing to the eastern Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.

Additionally, Murkowski’s plan calls for a share of revenues to participating offshore energy-producing states— including offshore wind, tidal and wave generation. It also calls for the establishment of permanent revenue sharing (as is established for onshore development) from leasing, bonus bids, rents and royalty receipts at 27.5 percent, with provision for direct partial payments to affected coastal communities.

The report also calls for an amendment to provide for an updated liability regime so all oil spill victims would be compensated.

The plan briefly touched on marine hydrokinetic (MHK) energy, encouraging more research into MHK devices and grid integration, and developing a thematic environmental impact statement for MHK projects. It also suggests establishing up to four MHK testing facilities.

Bills to Prevent Illegal Fishing Introduced
Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) introduced in February the International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act and the Pirate Fishing Elimination Act.

If enacted, the bills would aim to curb and end illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. The late Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii had sponsored this legislation in previous congresses.


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