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April 2012 Issue

NOAA Budget Criticized by Congress
U.S. House Republicans criticized NOAA’s fiscal year (FY) 2013, $5.1 billion budget request—an increase of $153.9 million, or 3.1 percent, from FY 2012—for higher spending and misplaced priorities in March hearings by the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, and the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs.

Republicans questioned NOAA’s priorities, such as 15 percent more funds for climate research, particularly for satellites, instead of investments in weather programs and data gathering to help industries, such as fishing. Democrats said they were “generally supportive” of the budget request.

NOAA plans to launch the next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) program in the second quarter of 2017 to minimize data gaps between JPSS and the recently launched Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, said NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco, who testified at the hearings. “The loss of NOAA’s polar-orbiting satellite data would result in an immediate degradation to weather forecast models, impacting NOAA’s ability to provide advance warnings of severe weather that help to protect lives and property,” she said.

The Subcommittee on Energy and Environment’s Democratic members were concerned about proposed cuts to the National Weather Service, with severe weather increasing nationwide. NOAA requested $9.72 million for the service, a $19.7 million decrease from FY 2012.

The agency also requested a $4.6 million decrease to terminate partner funding for the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program and to reduce operations and maintenance to the Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting Tsunamis (DART) buoys. NOAA proposed to increase the time between scheduled buoy maintenance, saving $1 million but possibly reducing data availability from a 80 percent target performance to approximately 72 percent.

Six U.S. senators wrote in March a letter urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to reject the proposed cuts to NOAA’s tsunami program. “Cutting funds for tsunami early warning systems jeopardize the safety and economic stability of communities in our states,” wrote Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).


US Senate Passes RESTORE Act for Gulf Coast
The U.S. Senate passed a transportation bill in March requiring 80 percent of penalties paid under the Clean Water Act by BP plc (London, England) and others to go to gulf states to restore coastal ecosystems and rebuild local economies after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A bill amendment, the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economies (RESTORE) Act, was attached a week before the bill was passed.

“Today’s vote was a huge step toward making sure any fines against BP end up in the local communities harmed by the company’s oil spill,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who co-sponsored the bill with Sens. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), said. “Otherwise, the money would go into the federal treasury—and there’s no telling where it might go from there.”

A Gulf Coast restoration trust fund would be set up by the RESTORE Act and financed with the penalties paid under the Clean Water Act, which experts estimate could total up to $21 billion. According to the office of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), 50 percent of the interest generated by the fund, which is expected to be up to tens of millions of dollars in the first year, will finance the National Endowment for the Oceans, Coasts and Great Lakes that would be established under the act. The endowment would fund projects to restore habitats, manage fisheries, plan for sustainable coastal development, acquire coastal properties for preservation and relocate critical coastal infrastructure.

The RESTORE Act amendment, introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), passed the House in February, but the full transportation bill has yet to be voted on by that body.


USCG Testifies on 2013 Budget
U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Commandant Adm. Bob Papp testified in March before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security; the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Marine Transportation; and the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard regarding the USCG’s fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request. The budget proposes $9.97 billion in USCG funding; $10.34 billion was proposed in FY 2012.

Papp emphasized replacing aging ships and aircraft to strengthen the USCG’s response to threats, such as terrorism, drugs, piracy and poaching. The majority of the USCG’s major cutter fleet is more than 40 years old, HE said.

The budget sets aside $1.2 billion for acquisition, a decrease from the FY 2012 request of $1.4 billion. Of this amount, $879.5 million would go to vessels. The USCG planned $658 million for the production of the sixth national security cutter.

Reps. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair, and Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee chair, wrote to the House Appropriations Committee to oppose the proposed budget. “These cuts threaten the ability of the Coast Guard to protect lives and property, defend our borders, and secure our ports, waterways and coasts.”


Hawaii Renewable Energy Task Force Launched
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Hawaii launched an offshore renewable energy task force in March to facilitate communication between BOEM and state, local, Native Hawaiian and federal stakeholders regarding renewable energy leasing for research activities and commercial development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), which starts three miles from the coast.

The task force was created at the request of Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie. The first meeting included an overview of existing regulatory processes and discussions on how best to complement Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative with renewable energy development on the OCS. The goal of the initiative is to transform Hawaii’s energy supply to 70 percent clean energy by 2030.



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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