Lock Up Your Children, Here Comes the National Ocean Policy!

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

On Tuesday, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the Administration’s National Ocean Policy (NOP). It was a tough one for the ocean, but that was easy to anticipate given the Some of the arguments used against it were effective (note: effective doesn’t mean “fact-based”), but many were so far over the top as to be comical, including:

  • Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA) drew the interesting conclusion that the national ocean policy would result in the death of all U.S. land use planning, and was a tool being used by the “radical left” to force the entire population into dense urban cores.  Hmm.  The National Ocean Policy would do this?
  • Congressman Steve Southerland (R-FL) intimated that the NOP would strip him of ALL his rights. Okayyyyyyyyy…
  • Christopher Guith, representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argued that the national ocean policy would halt certain risky activities viewed as potentially damaging, and  asserted that a better approach would be to charge blindly ahead and deal with any resulting environmental catastrophes after they happened.
  • Jim Gilmore, from the At-Sea (fish) Processors Association argued that the NOP intends to coordinate ocean uses with protection of critical habitat, as though that were a bad idea.

Extremism aside, the arguments used against implementing the national ocean policy can be grouped into a few general categories.  Fortunately, the NOP had plenty of Congressional defenders at the hearing as well.

Argument 1: It should be created through the legislative process rather than by Executive Order. Well, all those who support the NOP would prefer that it become law.  However, as Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) noted in his testimony, powerful individuals like former Natural Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (who we helped defeat) prevented previous NOP bills from even getting a hearing.  As the current leadership is also hostile to the NOP, an Executive Order is a good way of aligning the activities of the executive branch to move forward on an opportunity when Congress fails to act.

Argument 2: It will cause ocean zoning, which is assumed to be bad. This refers to , which is a tool proposed within the National Ocean Policy.  CMSP collects and assembles the data to enable  thoughtful planning for where each ocean use could and should be carried out, and where multiple or specific types of uses would cause damage.  Sounds truly evil, right?  I also find it funny that several Congressman argued that the very idea of zoning was ludicrous.  I’m guessing these guys would be OK with siting elementary schools in their district between prisons and strip joints.  In addition, as Jim Lenard, a panelist representing wind energy argued, CMSP would gather the data to determine whether certain activities would even be profitable in various locations, saving industry time and money.

Argument 3: It creates additional beaurocracy and regulatory burdens. This is flawed on many levels.  First, Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) pointed out that the NOP imposes no new regulations.  As an Executive Order, it works within current law.  What it does is provide a mechanism for the 20 different federal agencies with ocean jurisdiction to coordinate analysis and decisions. This mechanism is the , which is made up of the heads of all the relevant federal organizations with ocean jurisdiction.  That’s right – no new departments or agencies were created, the NOP simply creates a forum for the stakeholders to plan together.  So, it isn’t additional beaurocracy, and, as Jim Lenard pointed out, the NOP actually simplifies and streamlines the current process, which forces users to individually engage each of the relevant agencies and often results in redundant and incongruous activities with long delays.  Lenard pointed to the “smart from the start” program that used the collaborative framework to reduce the permitting time for offshore wind energy by 2 years.

At the end of the day, the National Ocean Policy is really about all the major stakeholders in ocean resource management working together, gathering relevant data and planning together. Yes, it is grounded in a conservation philosophy (which is why environmental groups love it), but it seeks to balance resource development with long term sustainable management of those resources.  Today, decisions are made by stakeholders independently and in a vacuum, and the oceans have suffered from this schizophrenic approach.  The National Ocean Policy’s coordination and collaboration would allow ocean economies to thrive, and ocean jobs to grow while protecting critical habitat and species, and enabling healthier oceans in a way that both environmentalists and users should embrace.  As Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) pointed out, opposing ocean planning is like opposing the use of air traffic controllers!




Date Posted: October 6, 2011 @ 7:14 am

1 Comment

  1. [...] more on the hearings, check out the blog written by Mike Dunmyer of Ocean Champions.  [...]

    Pingback by Blue Notes #92 « Blue Frontier — October 17, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

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