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Capital Report


September 2016 Issue

US House Interior Appropriations
Bill Passes with Anti-NOP Amendment

An amendment was added to the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, H.R. 5538, that would ensure none of the funds in the bill could be used to “implement, administer, or enforce” the National Ocean Policy (NOP), ECO Magazine reported.

The Interior Appropriations bill, which funds the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and agencies in the Department of the Interior (DOI), including the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, passed the House with a vote of 231 to 196.

The White House threatened to veto the bill, citing concerns that include underfunding core EPA and DOI programs, a failure to invest in oil spill prevention and preparedness, and “highly unacceptable” policy riders that undermine environmental protections.

Lawsuit to Protect Whales,
Court Decision on US Navy Sonar

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit in federal district court to force Endangered Species Act protections for Hawaiian false killer whales.

Under the Endangered Species Act, government agencies had one year from the date of listing to designate habitat protections for the endangered Hawaiian false killer whale population. The species was listed as endangered in 2012. Under law, critical habitat protections should have been established by 2013.

In other NRDC-related news, the Ninth Circuit court has ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) had illegally approved a permit authorizing the U.S. Navy to use low-frequency active sonar (LFA) in more than 70 percent of the world’s oceans. Designed for submarine detection over vast expanses of deep sea, LFA has the capacity to expose thousands of square miles to dangerous levels of noise.

The case against the Fisheries Service was brought by NRDC, among other parties. The court found that the Fisheries Service had unlawfully ignored government scientists’ recommendations to reduce or prevent harm from the sonar, resulting in a “systematic underprotection of marine mammals”.

Congress Members for Virginia
Hear from Marine Stakeholders

Marine stakeholders, including members of the shipping and fishing industries, met with members of Congress to explain how ocean planning benefits the Mid-Atlantic.

This was organized by Ocean Conservancy as a way for Virginia marine constituents to voice their insights to their U.S. senators and representatives on how ocean planning supports jobs, fisheries, energy infrastructure and recreation.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body issued its ocean plan and accompanying Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal in July.

“Ocean planning represents a paradigm shift,” said Anne Merwin, director of ocean planning at Ocean Conservancy. “In the past, how we used our federal waters often relied on top-down, agency-driven approaches. By contrast, ocean planning helps level the playing field by inviting everyone to the table to identify and resolve potential conflicts early on in the decision-making process.”

US House Science Committee
Issues Subpoena to Scientists

Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote an op ed in The New York Times to draw attention to the subpoena his organization received from the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology ordering the turnover of correspondence regarding research into Exxon Mobil that details how much Exxon Mobil knew about the environmental dangers posed from carbon emissions from its products at the same time it was spending millions to misinform the public about climate change science, according to Kimmell.

Kimmell called the subpoena a “deeply troubling request” that is “a bullying tactic that threatens the work that advocacy groups like mine do under the protection of the First Amendment.”

Similar subpoenas were sent to other environmental organizations and funders, as well as the offices of the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts, which have commenced investigations into Exxon Mobil’s potentially fraudulent actions.

San Francisco Bill Bans Styrofoam
San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the anti-Styrofoam bill. The new law goes into effect January 1 and bans polystyrene in retail sales for a wide range of products, including ice chests, dock floats, coffee cups, and supermarket meat and fish trays.

In 2007, the city banned the use of polystyrene in takeout food containers. More than 100 cities have limited the foam products.

BSEE Director Seeks Help
Addressing Offshore Safety

U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Director Brian Salerno is forming the Interagency Bolt Action Team to focus on offshore safety issues related to subsea bolts.

Salerno challenged offshore operators, drilling companies, manufacturers and industry organizations to be more proactive in addressing this issue.

Federal team members will work together to identify root causes of the bolt/connector failures, review industry standards, and develop solutions for future safe use of bolts and connectors.

US Coast Guard Closes
Nine NDGPS Sites

Nine U.S. Coast Guard Nationwide Differential Global Positioning System (NDGPS) sites have closed: Cold Bay, Alaska; Lompoc, California; Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin; Pickford, Michigan; Saginaw Bay, Michigan; Brunswick, Maine; Key West, Florida; Elgin, Florida; and Isabela, Puerto Rico.

NDGPS transmissions will continue from the 39 Coast Guard and seven Army Corps of Engineers sites that remain open.


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