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November 2011 Issue

Congressmen Introduce Bill to Fund Ocean Energy
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced in September the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Promotion Act. The act would authorize $75 million in annual funding for ocean-generated energy for 2012 through 2014, boosting research grants, loans and tax incentives available for scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs.

Funding from the act would provide federal aid for technologies that link marine and hydrokinetic power to the electricity grid, release environmental impact data derived from federally supported research, establish standards for testing and certifying these technologies, and create a grant program to help fund the costs of environmental impact studies needed before demonstration projects can be installed.

Ballast Water Treatment Bill Goes to House Vote
The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved in October the "Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act of 2011" (H.R. 2840), which will be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill, introduced in the House by Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), amends the Clean Water Act to set a single nationwide ballast water treatment standard, conforming to rules set by the International Maritime Organization. Conservation groups came out in opposition against the bill saying it would reverse progress on preventing invasive species in the Great Lakes.

"The House bill would get rid of the best tools we have to ensure that ballast treatment is adopted as quickly as possible and keeps improving over time," said Thom Cmar, attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "As vessels have been the primary delivery vehicles for invasive species in the Great Lakes, the House bill would bring the fight against this 'living' pollution to a grinding halt."

Supporters of the bill said it will remedy the present patchwork of varying and inconsistent ballast water regulations across states that result in 29 differing standards. The Coast Guard and the EPA have separate regulations under two federal laws, and the EPA's Clean Water Act allows each state to impose requirements on top of these federal regulations.

"The current system threatens international maritime trade," LoBiondo said. "It is driving industry away from short seas shipping. It is undermining our attempts to revitalize the U.S. flagged fleet. It is destroying jobs."

Committee Discusses Drilling Moratorium's Effects
The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee held in October a hearing to review the effects the Obama administration's six-month drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico had on the region's jobs, energy and local economies. The moratorium was lifted in October 2010.

Local businesses in the offshore, boating and hospitality industries testified about the spills' ongoing effects, citing examples of lost jobs and slow recovery. Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) largely blamed this lagging recovery on the moratorium and an offshore permit application process that often takes months to receive approval.

Suggesting the committee focus on the spill's effects and how to prevent similar future accidents rather than encourage further drilling, ranking committee member Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) cited a study that found the oil spill could cost the gulf region $22.7 billion over three years in lost tourism. "We should ensure that there is proper monitoring of the gulf ecosystem so that we are ready to adapt to possible impacts of the spill on fish and other species."

Hastings said economic growth had been dampened by sluggish permitting activity, which has not returned to pre-Deepwater Horizon levels and has operated at lows equivalent to "hurricane-induced slowdowns."

"While I recognize that some permits indeed are being issued, there are facts and data that demonstrate recovery is moving at a pace that continues to hamper job creation and the economy," Hastings said.

Senate Committee Passes RESTORE Act for Gulf
The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved in September the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2011 (RESTORE Act). The act will establish a fund dedicating 80 percent of BP's (London, England) Clean Water Act penalties for its role in the Gulf Coast oil spill to regional restoration.

The RESTORE act forms the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund to assist Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Texas in repairing the ecological and economic damage caused by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Clean Water Act allows the EPA to collect $1,100 per barrel of oil spilled, or $4,300 per barrel if there is a finding of gross negligence, from any party found responsible for an oil spill in federal waters. Based on the estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the gulf, BP could face fines between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion.

Under present law, this money would go to the U.S. Treasury, and the gulf would receive nothing. The RESTORE Act also establishes a Gulf Coast ecosystem restoration council and a comprehensive ecosystem restoration plan, as well as a long-term science and fisheries endowment and Gulf Coast centers of excellence.

Senate Committee to Consider HAB Legislation
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and six co-sponsors introduced to the Senate in October the Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2011. The bill, which will amend the expired Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998, was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Snowe had introduced a bill of the same name in 2009, but it never made it out of committee. The 2011 act aims to drive the development and implementation of a national program to predict, mitigate, reduce and control HABs.

A similarly titled House bill, H.R. 2484, was introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (D-Md.) in July and also calls for the reauthorization of the 1998 HAB act.



2012:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC
2011:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC

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