(03/30/2012) House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) received official notice from the Obama Administration denying the Chairman's request for a 90-day extension of the public comment period on the draft National Ocean Policy Implementation plan.
"President Obama issued an Executive Order imposing a new bureaucracy to zone the oceans that threatens to deter new economic investment, suppress job creation, restrict even recreational fishing, block energy development, and stretch far from the shore to affect farmers and inland communities," Rep. Hastings said in an official release.
"Given the high economic stakes, the vast amounts of new red-tape set to be unrolled, and the fact that some 15 agencies spent over two years devising this scheme, it's unreasonable that the Obama Administration won't allow the American people more than just 75 days to review and comment on it," added Chairman Hastings.
The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) has been a longtime critic of the over burdensome bureaucracy of the National Oceans Policy going back to 2003 following a report by the Pew Ocean Commission when original legislation to bureaucratize management of our nation's oceans was first presented by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) in the form of the Oceans 21 bill.
RFA executive director Jim Donofrio, a vocal opponent of both the Farr bill and the President's executive order to bypass legislative process, has testified numerous times in front of Congress to stop what he called a "takeover" of our U.S. oceans by radical, anti-access agenda.
"RFA has been back and forth to the House Natural Resources Committee many times over the past 10 years in an effort to stop this bureaucratic nonsense, and we've been very successful in keeping this bottled up thanks to the efforts of congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle," Donofrio said. "Then President Obama came in and essentially moved this bill out of Committee with the stroke of a pen, completely angering the legislative branch of government."
In a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on June 18, 2009 in which Donofrio was asked to testify (see www.joinrfa.org/Press/RFACongress_062309.pdf), Rep. Don Young (R-AK) spoke out against the heavy influence of Pew Environment Group and their support of the Farr legislation, saying "this bill's not going to go anywhere."
"You may try to work it through the House, you may have the Speaker help you out, but I'll stop it dead in the Senate, because you're not going to mess with my waters in Alaska, you're not going to mess with my fishermen as you've done in the past," Rep. Young added, calling the Farr bill "bad legislation" and warning fellow Committee members that the bill was being pushed by an "overzealous group of people" who were opposed to fishing.
Despite the repeated failures by Rep. Farr to get his "bad legislation" out of Committee, President Obama initiated an executive order in July of 2010 (see release at www.joinrfa.org/Press/KingObama_072010.pdf) which bypassed the entire legislative process and excluded from the debate all those concerns brought up by RFA and the Committee members themselves.
RFA called yesterday's announcement by the administration the final act by a President who is clouded by his own agenda.
"This isn't just about our oceans, but everything connected to our nation's waterways will now be under federal control through this executive order," Donofrio said. "It's a complete takeover of every lake, river and stream that flows into the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, along with all the lands within."
In an October 17, 2009 letter to the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Donofrio brought up the RFA's critical concerns that the Administration's Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force was treading dangerously close to violating the Constitutional separation between the Legislative and Executive Branch of government. "RFA believes that enacting laws through Executive order and proclamation sets a dangerous precedence," Donofrio said.
"RFA is concerned about the relatively rapid speed at which CEQ is advancing with this initiative and the apparent lack of opportunity the average recreational angler will have when the final Policy and subsequent bureaucracy is put in place," he added. (See RFA's official comments at www.joinrfa.org/press/CEQComments_101909.pdf).
According to Chairman Hastings, despite all the Congressional hearings and numerous requests by his Committee for more information, the Administration has refused to tell Congress what programs will be cut to provide the money to fund this new bureaucracy. "This refusal to allow a thorough and open review of the plan to carry-out the President's Executive Order is another example of the Obama Administration prioritizing their job-destroying agenda over the livelihoods of Americans from coast to coast," added Chairman Hastings.
Donofrio said while there may be partisan gridlock in Congress between democrats and republicans at times, the House Natural Resources Committee has always provided a stellar example of bipartisan unity in support of issues related to the management, conservation and utilization of our nation's resources. (Watch Committee member Rep. Steve Southerland of Florida cross-examining Pew Environment Group consultant Terry Gibson at the most recent hearing on National Oceans Policy at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLqFgyRMzBI).
"Some folks don't want to hear it, but the fact is that President Obama and his appointees have completely disregarded the legislative process, that they have ignored the requests by Congress, while supporting the input of environmental business leaders like Pew and Environmental Defense Fund over that of the American people," Donofrio said. "The only way to stop this federal takeover of our public resources now is to have a new executive order rescinding the previous one, and that can only be done by a new president."
"That's not partisan politics, that's just simple truth," Donofrio said, adding "If you don't like the king's decree, you need to participate in an American revolution on Tuesday, November 6."
RFA encourages anglers to sit down and view testimony from the 10/26/11 House Natural Resources Committee hearing archived it its entirety at:
For a select look at NOAA's bad day in Congress in support of the President's National Oceans Policy, use the scroll bar in the media window to fast-forward ahead to a few of the best parts.
1:15 - Committee Chairman Doc Hastings describes lack of response from Obama administration regarding National Ocean Policy bureaucracy.
40:20 - Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) provides single token letter of angler support for the executive order, that of John McMurray, an advisor for Environmental Defense Fund hand-picked by Dr. Jane Lubchenco to represent New York fishermen at the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC).
1:34:10 - Rep. Don Young (R-AK) grills Dr. Lubchenco on her comments that "quite a few fishermen" support the executive order, though she's unable to produce a name except to say the MAFMC ("same one as you put catch shares involved into," replies Young.)
1:42:00 - Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) questions the use of new "regulation" under the executive order, though neither Dr. Lubchenco nor Sutley seem willing or capable of appropriately answering the congressman's question about regulations and enforcement.
1:54:40 - In his opening five-minute remarks, Donofrio calls executive order "a complete government takeover of our fisheries," while criticizing NOAA for not funding scientific efforts which he calls the "administration's complete disregard of personal liberties and state's rights."
2:13:03 - In answering a question from Chairman Hastings about science, Donofrio says NOAA "couldn't run a kindergarten playground," charging the fisheries service with perjuring itself in a recent black sea bass lawsuit, saying "they lied to the judge, yet they're keeping us at the dock based on MRFSS data."
2:23:30 - Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) calls the ocean policy "ideological" and asks Donofrio about how stakeholder input is considered by NOAA. "Dr. Lubchenco's administration has been whacking people off the councils and stacking them with their own people," Donofrio replied. "So of course she throws it back to the council now and said 'okay the councils are going to make the decision.'"
2:28:10 - In response to a follow-up question from Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ) about the state of the fishing industry, Donofrio said fishermen are "disgusted with federal regulations that are not allowing them to fish on rebuilt stocks and NOAA's not doing a thing about it."