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February 2016 Issue

Jason-3 Launches
For Earth Monitoring

Jason-3, a U.S.-European oceanography satellite mission with NASA participation that will continue a nearly quarter-century record of tracking global sea level rise, was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Jason-3 is an international mission led by NOAA in partnership with NASA, the French space agency CNES, and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. The mission will improve weather, climate and ocean forecasts.

Jason-3 will begin full science operations after a six-month checkout phase, joining Jason-2, which launched in 2008. From low-Earth orbit, Jason-3 will precisely measure the height of 95 percent of the world’s ice-free ocean every 10 days.

Data from Jason-3 will be used for other scientific, commercial and operational applications, including modeling of deep-ocean waves; forecasts of surface waves for offshore operators; forecasts of tides and currents for commercial shipping and ship routing; coastal forecasts to respond to environmental challenges such as oil spills and harmful algal blooms; coastal modeling crucial for marine mammal and coral reef research; and forecasts of El Niño and La Niña events.


US House Votes Down
Rule to Expand Federal Waters

The U.S. House of Representatives voted against a recent Obama Administration rule that gives the federal government sweeping new authority to regulate virtually all waters or wet areas in the U.S

The House approved S.J. Res 22, a resolution of congressional disapproval that vacates the administration’s rule, published on June 29, 2015, to broaden the definition under federal law of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) and expand federal regulatory power under the Clean Water Act.

Opponents argue that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published the final WOTUS rule without properly consulting state and local authorities.

The Senate approved S.J. Res 22 in November. President Barack Obama vetoed the Congressional resolution in January.


Ocean Champions Wins
Excellence in Policy Award

For the first time in the history of the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards, an organization will receive the Excellence in Policy Award: Ocean Champions and its Co-Founder Dr. David Wilmot. Receiving this award reflects the unique niche Ocean Champions has played at the intersection of ocean policy and politics.

Ocean Champions is a conservation organization that includes a Political Action Committee (PAC) aimed at making the health of public seas a nonpartisan national government priority. The Peter Benchley Ocean Awards acknowledge outstanding achievement across many sectors of society leading to the protection of the ocean, coasts and the communities that depend on them.

The other 2016 awardees include: President Tommy Remengesau Jr. of the Republic of Palau for Excellence in National Stewardship; Dr. Barbara Block for Excellence in Science; Ian Urbina for Excellence in Media; Dr. Chris Costello for Excellence in Solutions; Tara Expeditions for Excellence in Exploration; Daniela Fernandez for the Christopher Benchley Youth Award; and Serge Dedina for Hero of the Seas.


MARAD Offers Grants
For Small US Shipyards

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced the availability of $4.9 million in federal funding to support capital improvements and employee training at small U.S. shipyards. The grants, provided through the Small Shipyard Grant Program, will support efficiency improvements and modernizations that allow U.S. shipyards to compete more effectively in the global marketplace.

Grants are available to support a variety of projects, including capital and related improvements and equipment upgrades that foster ship construction, repair and reconfiguration in small shipyards across the U.S. The grants can also be used to support maritime training programs that improve technical skills to enhance shipyard worker efficiency and productivity. The Small Shipyard Grants, which are limited to no more than 75 percent of the estimated improvement costs, are available to U.S. shipyards with less than 1,200 production employees.

MARAD intends to award grants no later than April 18, 2016.


GOMESA Phase II Increases
Gulf States Revenue Sharing

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) issued a final regulation on the distribution and disbursement of qualified revenues from certain leases on the Gulf of Mexico’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), in accordance with provisions contained in the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (GOMESA). In accordance with GOMESA Phase II, ONRR will annually disburse up to $375 million to Gulf States and their eligible coastal political subdivisions and up to $125 million to the stateside Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Phase II broadens the scope of leases subject to revenue sharing and thus increases the annual GOMESA disbursements to Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.

GOMESA provides for sharing 37.5 percent of qualified oil and gas leasing revenues from certain Outer Continental Shelf leases with the four Gulf States and their coastal parishes and counties. GOMESA also specifies that 12.5 percent of qualified revenues are provided to the stateside Land and Water Conservation Fund and that the remaining 50 percent is sent to the U.S. Treasury General Fund.


US Crude Oil
Export Ban Lifted

The U.S. House and the Senate passed legislation to lift the 1970s-era U.S. crude oil export ban, marking a substantial victory for America’s oil and natural gas industry, NOIA reported.

The measure was part of the year-end Omnibus Appropriations bill, which President Barack Obama has signed.



2017:  JAN | FEB | MARCH
2016:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC

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