Fire, Ready, Aim – Congress Reviews National Ocean Policy

The Congress creates our federal laws. The Administrative branch creates regulations. The National Ocean Policy has yet to change either. Of course, you wouldn’t have learned this if you had sat through the House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee oversight hearing on the National Ocean Policy this morning. The rhetoric from Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) and the Republican members — who tried really hard to follow the current GOP playbook by depicting any effort by the Obama Administration as a “job-killing regulation” – claimed that the National Ocean Policy is “…ocean zoning (which) could place huge sections of the ocean off limits to activities not ‘zoned’ as government-approved.” The argument was less than convincing.

Massachusetts’ Representative Ed Markey (D-Malden) knows what many of us have learned from the value of the Massachusetts Ocean Plan: “Just like other plans, comprehensive ocean planning would allow everyone with an interest in our coasts and oceans to participate in a transparent, decision-making process to determine how to best utilize an increasingly busy, productive and important national resource.  This would increase predictability and certainty for existing and new users of these areas and improve ocean health. Opposing ocean planning is like opposing air traffic control. You can do it but it will cause a mess or lead to dire consequences.”

Well said, Ed. John Bullard, former mayor of New Bedford and someone with real experience in ocean planning, also did an excellent job making the case for rational thought and comprehensive ocean planning.

Still, the overall lesson from today’s hearing is that smart ocean planning has yet to inflame Congressional passions. We’re still hoping that the seductive merits of interagency coordination, collaboration and cooperation between ocean users, a productive and inclusive approach to public involvement and an increased ability to make science-based policy decisions will catch the eye of elected officials in Congress, the states and in communities across the nation. We are forced to admit, however, that the solid work of working together is bland stuff compared to the sex appeal of outlandish claims that the federal government is going to take away your fishing pole.

The Mass Ocean Plan is already showing the promise of good planning and cooperation. Rhode Island’s Ocean SAMP will be integral to creating a new industry of clean renewable energy. The National Ocean Policy can do the same for communities across the country. We need the Congress to stay calm and move it forward.


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