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Capital Report


July 2015 Issue

Sens. Rubio, Nelson Ask NOAA To Extend Red Snapper Season in Gulf
U.S. Senate Commerce Committee members Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) sent a letter to NOAA urging an extension of the 2015 recreational red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Weather plays a large role in determining when recreational anglers can leave the docks and safely enjoy their time on the water,” they wrote. “With the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) allotting only ten days for the 2015 season, we are concerned anglers may have unnecessarily put themselves in harm’s way in order to comply with the prescribed time frame.

“An extended season would provide an opportunity for anglers to safely fish, and would serve as an economic boost to Florida communities where fishing is a way of life.”

The senators also expressed concern at NOAA’s decision not to open up red snapper fishing in the South Atlantic for 2015, saying the decision was made “without an assessment.”

U.S. Appeals Court Upholds BSEE Approval of Shell’s Spill Response Plans
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld BSEE’s decision to approve the Oil Spill Response Plans submitted by Shell through a streamlined process, NOIA reported. The court ruled that BSEE is not required to conduct additional broad environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act and additional interagency consultation under the Endangered Species Act. The decision upheld a previous district court decision.

Additional permits are still needed for exploration to occur in the Chukchi Sea this summer. Environmental groups will likely continue challenges to permitting.

Lake Superior Marine Conservation Act Introduced in Canada
The Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area Act (NMCA) was introduced in Canada to formally establish the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area.

The proposed act comprises more than 10,000 square kilometers of the lake and includes lakebed, islands and north shore lands, making it one of the world’s largest freshwater marine protected areas.

Senate Passes Trade Act, AAPA Seeks House Approval Next
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) applauded U.S. Senate passage of the bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015) and sent a letter to House leadership to urge making passage of TPA-2015 a priority.

Trade activity occurring through seaports accounts for 26 percent of the U.S. economy, generates more than 23 million American jobs, and provides more than $320 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues, the AAPA said.

$1.3 Million Available For Cleaner Marine Energy
The U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced up to $1.3 million in federal funding is now available through cooperative agreements for projects supporting vessel emissions reductions and alternative energy.

The funding is being made available under two separate requests for applications: one focused on exhaust gas cleaning demonstration projects on U.S.-flag vessels that remove pollutants from the stacks of marine vessels and one focused on projects that demonstrate vessel emissions reductions via alternative fuels or energy sources, such as LNG or fuel cells, and improvements in vessel energy efficiency through use of conservation technology and practices.

The projects will be used to support further work related to air emissions reduction and alternative energy research, and assess the public benefit of possible incentives to encourage adoption of emissions reduction and alternative energy in the maritime sector.

Funding for Key Parts of WRRDA Gets Green Light From US Senate
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed legislation that funds key provisions contained in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) enacted last year.

The Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill would provide $1.254 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) Trust Fund to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for operations and maintenance of federal navigation channels.

This is an 11.96 percent increase over the FY 2015 appropriation and meets the FY 2016 funding level outlined in WRRDA 2014.

Included in WRRDA 2014 is a 10-year plan to incrementally ratchet up spending of HMT tax revenues so that by FY 2025 all HMT taxes collected will be fully spent.

The legislation would address tax fairness and donor equity issues by providing $50 million under Section 2106 of WRRDA 2014 for major HMT “donor” ports and “energy transfer” ports.

The House of Representatives passed its Energy and Water Appropriations bill in May. The House legislation also hit the targeted HMT funding level.

US House Hearing on Commercial Weather Data and NOAA
The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing to discuss the benefits and challenges of purchasing and incorporating commercial weather data at NOAA.

NOAA procures and maintains the nation’s geostationary and polar satellites for U.S. weather forecasting. These observations are supplemented with a variety of purchased commercial weather data.

Under discussion was the current NOAA policy of providing free and open access to weather data, how such a policy has benefited academic and private interests, and the challenges associated with maintaining such a policy while expanding the use of commercial weather data.


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