Administration Establishes New Executive Order Regarding National Ocean Policy

Administration Establishes New Executive Order Regarding National Ocean Policy – On June 19, the Administration released a new Executive Order (EO) entitled, Executive Order Regarding the Ocean Policy to Advance the Economic, Security, and Environmental Interests of the United States.  The Administration has also revoked the National Ocean Policy established by the Obama Administration via Executive Order 13547 of July 19, 2010.  As stated in the new EO, the purpose of this new National Ocean Policy statement is to recognize,

“…. the ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters of the United States are foundational to the economy, security, global competitiveness, and well-being of the United States. Ocean industries employ millions of Americans and support a strong national economy. Domestic energy production from Federal waters strengthens the Nation’s security and reduces reliance on imported energy. Our Armed Forces protect our national interests in the ocean and along the Nation’s coasts. Goods and materials that support our economy and quality of life flow through maritime commerce. Our fisheries resources help feed the Nation and present tremendous export opportunities. Clean, healthy waters support fishing, boating, and other recreational opportunities for all Americans.

“This order maintains and enhances these and other benefits to the Nation through improved public access to marine data and information, efficient interagency coordination on ocean-related matters, and engagement with marine industries, the science and technology community, and other ocean stakeholders. To advance these national interests, this order recognizes and supports Federal participation in regional ocean partnerships, to the extent appropriate and consistent with national security interests and statutory authorities…”

The Administration’s new EO stresses economic and security concerns, interagency coordination, promotes the lawful use of the ocean by agencies, facilitate the economic growth of coastal communities and promote ocean industries, advance ocean science and technology, enhance the Nation’s energy security, and ensure that federal regulations and management decisions do not prevent productive and sustainable use of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes.  The EO establishes a new interagency Ocean Policy Committee chaired by the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

President Trump’s executive order eliminates the National Ocean Council, replacing it with an interagency Ocean Policy Committee charged with implementing the new policy to “provide economic, security, and environmental benefits” for Americans. The policy aims to “facilitate the economic growth of coastal communities and promote ocean industries,” and “ensure that federal regulations and management decisions do not prevent productive and sustainable use of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources.”

While both executive orders recognize the need for science to inform decision-making, the Trump Administration’s new National Ocean Policy eliminates the goal to “increase scientific understanding of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems as part of the global interconnected systems of air, land, ice, and water, including their relationships to humans and their activities.” In addition, the new policy replaces the mandate for federal leadership in creating science- and ecosystem-based regional ocean plans, limiting federal participation to state-driven regional ocean partnerships.

The new EO is being met with both strong concerns and support by the relevant community.  “The President’s executive order undermines our ability to sustain ocean and coastal resources over time for the benefit of this and future generations of Americans,” says Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard. “The new policy places too much emphasis on short-term economic gain over long-term ocean health and prosperity.”

The National Resources Defense Council expressed alarm that the new EO no longer requires federal members to continue planning together with states and tribes to provide for coordinated ocean protection and there is no longer a national policy to promote health ocean ecosystems. 

Rear Admiral (Ret.) Jonathan White, President and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership said, “The ocean has much to offer, but only through better understanding of this precious resource that covers 71 percent of our Earth’s surface can we sustain and advance economic, national, homeland, food, and energy securities.  Our unparalleled ocean science and technology community can and must be utilized to enable a healthy and productive ocean that thrives as a source of employment, energy, commerce, food, and recreation for billions around the globe.

Meanwhile, the National Ocean Policy Coalition managing director Jack Belcher said this was "a welcome development that embraces principles we all agree on, such as encouraging data and information sharing, interagency and inter-jurisdictional collaboration, and partnerships within and among the public and private sectors". 

Administration Releases Government-wide Reorganization Proposal – This week the Administration released a new report entitled, Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century – Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations.  Since June 2017, the Office of Management and Budget has been working on a series of organizational reform issues culminating in the release of a new report containing over 30 major organizational proposals that would impact nearly every agency of government.

The proposal would merge the departments of Education and Labor into a new Department of Education and the Workforce. Welfare and food aid programs would be consolidated into the newly named Department of Health and Public Welfare, and rural housing assistance, now at the Department of Agriculture, would shift to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Food safety programs, now overseen by the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration, would be consolidated into a new Federal Food Safety Agency.

Other recommendations include:  consolidation of federal graduate research fellowships; improving NASA’s agility through increased use of Federally Funded Research and Development Centers; Consolidation of the Department of Energy’s Applied Energy offices; Merger of the National Marine Fisheries Service with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Consolidate mission alignment of the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works with those of other Federal Agencies; and restructuring the U.S. Postal Service.  More details on this reorganization report can be found here.

Nominee for DOE’s Renewable Energy Programs Announced -- Daniel Simmons is being nominated to the Assistant Secretary for Energy, Efficiency, and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy.  Mr. Simmons has served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at the U.S. Department of Energy.  He oversaw technology development in the energy efficiency, renewable power, and sustainable transportation sectors, leading EERE to achieve its vision of a strong and prosperous America powered by clean, affordable, and secure energy.  Prior to government service, Mr. Simmons served as the Institute for Energy Research’s Vice President for Policy promoting affordable energy for all Americans.  He previously served as director of the Natural Resources Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council, was a research fellow at the Mercatus Center, and worked as professional staff on the Committee on Resources of the United States House of Representatives.  Mr. Simmons is a graduate of Utah State University and George Mason University School of Law.

Living Shorelines Act Introduced in Senate – Working off legislation previously introduced in the House, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced legislation that would create a new grant program within NOAA for nature-based shoreline protection projects known as living shorelines.  Living shorelines are a type of green infrastructure that protect and stabilize coastal edges by using natural materials such as plants, sand, shell, or rock. Unlike a concrete seawall or other artificial structure, which impedes the growth of plants and animals, living shorelines can grow over time, allowing them to adapt to changing conditions. Using green and natural infrastructure, communities can create a buffer that mitigates the impacts of shoreline flooding by reducing wave energy and decreasing erosion. Green infrastructure is cost-effective and can also provide benefits such as improved local water quality and ecology.

The Living Shorelines Act: Establishes a 1:1 grant program to help states, towns, and nonprofits implement climate resilient living shoreline projects and encourages the use of natural materials in the protection of coastal communities; directs NOAA to develop criteria to select grantees based on the potential of the project to protect the community, the environmental conditions of the site, the ecological benefits of the project, and the ability of the project to mitigate erosion and flooding, absorb coastal storms, and sustain coastal ecosystems; projects must be able to demonstrate that they have or will be able to obtain any local, state, or federal permits or necessary authorizations; prioritizes areas that have received a Stafford Act disaster declaration or areas that have a documented history of coastal inundation, flooding, or erosion; and authorizes $25 million a year for these grants.  Text of the legislation can be found here

This legislation is an amended version of the Living Shorelines Act (H.R.4525), introduced by Rep. Pallone. In addition to Senators Harris and Murphy, the legislation was introduced by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ). The House version, H.R.4525, was introduced by Rep. Pallone (D-NJ) and currently has 24 cosponsors.

FY18 Rescission Bill Fails in the Senate – On June 20 the Senate voted to reject the Administration’s proposal to rescind about $15 billion in funding included in the FY 2018 omnibus appropriations act signed into law in March 2018.  Congress had until June 22 to pass the rescissions package, which passed the House last week, by a simple majority. The Administration first proposed the rescissions package in May, but revised its request earlier this month. The revised measure dropped the amount of spending to be rescinded from roughly $15.4 billion to approximately $14.7 billion. The revision stripped out provisions targeting federal highway funding after a Government Accountability Office analysis warned it may not legally be eligible for rescissions. A growing Ebola outbreak in Congo also led the White House to remove provisions slashing emergency funds to combat Ebola.  About half of the proposed rescission was to come from the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).