(5/10/2012) Less than 24 hours after the House of Representatives approved by bipartisan vote (220-191) a measure to close the funding loophole created by environmental special interest groups to expand Limited Access Privilege Programs or "catch shares," along the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico, the House yesterday approved an amendment which would halt funding for the implementation of Executive Order 13547, President Obama's ocean zoning and National Ocean Policy.
The amendment to H.R. 5326 (Fiscal Year 2013 Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill) was offered by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) and would prohibit the use of any funds appropriated under this bill from being used to implement the National Ocean Policy established under Executive Order 13547. Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the amendment by a 246-174 vote.
In a statement following the vote, Rep. Flores called it "imperative that we first understand the effects this policy will have on jobs as well as the vast coastal and inland economies," adding that he was "pleased to see the passage of my amendment preventing the funding for the National Ocean Policy, which had the potential to take funds away from existing congressionally authorized activities critical to the ocean and coastal economies."
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) said "without knowing the potential jobs and economic ramifications of the Policy, nor the amount of time, money and resources it will cost to implement, it is imperative that we halt funding so that these questions can be answered and proper Congressional oversight can be conducted."
The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) called the last two days of congressional action significant in terms of the national efforts to overturn the past 4 years of agenda-driven policy efforts against the will U.S. coastal residents. "The vote to halt funding on efforts which would deny Americans access to our coastal waters and privatize our marine fish stocks is not partisan in nature," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "This is not about Democrats or Republicans it's about protecting the rights and heritage of our coastal residents."
In July 2010, President Obama signed an Executive Order to implement a new National Ocean Policy, which includes a mandatory Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning initiative to "zone" the oceans. The House Natural Resources Committee has held five hearings related to either the mandatory ocean zoning or funding for agencies which are implementing the National Ocean Policy. Prior to the President's executive order, a flawed bill was introduced before the same Committee during each of the last four congressional sessions going back to 2008, but the over-burdensome bureaucracy contained within the legislation kept it bottled up.
Just this past year, Chairman Hastings sent two letters - the first on February 23, 2012 and the second on March 20, 2012 - to the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) asking questions about how funds have already been used to implement the National Ocean Policy. The Committee has yet to receive a complete response to all of the questions and requests for information. Chairman Hastings also sent a letter to the Chairmen of the House Committee on Appropriations asking for the inclusion of language to prohibit the use of funds to implement that National Ocean Policy in all of the FY13 Appropriations bills.
Donofrio pointed out that RFA has been especially critical of this Administration for advancing agenda which completely contradicts the needs and concerns of those within the recreational fishing community. "I keep hearing from members of the recreational fishing industry who are angry about these efforts moving forward, but few have stood up openly to oppose the efforts or to inform this Administration we're not happy with the lack of response," Donofrio. "There are a few Beltway insiders who are willing to go along to get along, but we're happy that House has made it very clear where they stand on the issue.
In April, an industry coalition letter signed by 83 industry groups and trade associations, including the RFA, supported Chairman Hastings' request that no funds be appropriated for implementing the Policy until there is time for further examination of the Policy's jobs and economic implications.
"RFA has had numerous meetings with high-ranking members of Congress about these policies, including House Speaker Boehner who himself is a fishermen and understands what we're dealing with right now at NOAA Fisheries and within the White House CEQ. This may be the first presidential election in history where the rights of coastal fishermen enter the national debate."
Rather than working with the bureaucrats to secure a seat at the National Ocean Policy table, Donofrio said the RFA plans to keep working the Legislative Branch of government to fix broken laws and ideological policies the way our government was designed to work. "Brokering deals and securing compromise behind the backs of Congress or through executive privilege might be the way of nobles and aristocrats, but that's not the way of the American people," he said.
RFA managing director Jim Hutchinson, Jr. recently spelled out the problems with the present National Ocean Policy in a national blog at The Hill newspaper (Why National Ocean Policy Is Flawed) at http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/energy-a-environment/225243-why-national-ocean-policy-is-flawed. "It wasn't up for more than a few hours before the 'black tie' environmentalists started attacking the messenger instead of the message, which clearly shows these ideologues don't have much have faith in their own position any longer," Hutchinson laughed.
"The environmental business leaders have shown their hand, and Congress is now well aware that this entire movement to close down our oceans is based simply on hostile, agenda-driven rhetoric by a handful of true extremists," Hutchinson said.