Wednesday, June 5, 2013

US Senator Frank Lautenberg - A True Blue Ocean Champion


By Clean Ocean Action Executive Director Cindy Zipf 

Today, services were held for Senator Lautenberg, a great ocean champion and long-time friend of Clean Ocean Action.  

For nearly 30 years, I have had the joy, pleasure and honor of working with Senator Lautenberg. He tirelessly defended our coastal heritage and the deep blue.  He has been the sage voice and warrior for the environment.  Everyone who enjoys a day at the beach, catching a wave, reeling in a big fish, or sipping a cool drink of water, can thank Senator Lautenberg.  Indeed, everyone who takes a deep breath of clean air is a beneficiary of Senator Lautenberg’s work:  The Green Godfather of the US Senate. 

Senator Lautenberg took office when the waters off the NY/NJ coasts were the ocean dumping capital of the world.  Our beaches were trashed and ocean waters were plagued with pollution.  He led the US Senate in passing several federal laws, including:
  • Ocean Dumping Ban Act—Which ended ocean dumping of municipal and industrial waste, 
  • Marine Plastic Pollution Research and Control Act—Which made it illegal to dump plastics in the ocean, 
  • New York/New Jersey Bight Restoration Plan — Which mandated the EPA to create a plan to restore the waters off the NY and NJ coasts,
  • BEACH Act (Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act) — Which sets national standards to ensure waters are safe for swimming,
  • Medical Waste Tracking Act—Which required tracking of certain medical wastes including syringes,
  • Oil Spill Protection Act – Which required a double-hull protective layer on newly constructed ships in response to devastating oil spills and
  • Rising Ocean Acidification – Which required the government to study and abate ocean acidification. 
In addition, for decades he led the national fight to stop offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.  In response to the BP Oil Spill, Senator Lautenberg said, “oil drilling is a clear and present danger to our health, our environment, and our economy.”

Senator Lautenberg worked to continue funding for programs that celebrate the resources of the ocean and improved water quality for today and future generations.   His commitment to clean ocean economies and those whose livelihoods depend upon them was unwavering.  He was vigilant about ensuring that a day at the beach should never turn into a day at the doctor’s office.”

Memories are many -- press conferences on the boardwalk defending water quality or battling Big Oil,  joining citizens cleaning up litter on the beaches, listening and talking with the small and the tall about their treasured stories of the shore, and at committee hearings firmly challenging those who would harm the environment. These and many more reflect a true blue man of the people, and a believer in the power and importance of a clean and healthy environment.

As we move forward, we will continue to fight to protect the ocean that he championed.  We will work to honor his extraordinary achievements with the designation of the Clean Ocean Zone, and will preserve his record of environmental accomplishments.


  1. Thank you for telling us a little bit of an extraordinary man and some of his accomplishments - many of which I was unaware. My condolences to you on the loss of a friend. ~ Christine

  2. Cindy, wonderful tribute you wrote. Very comprehensive, and informative. You did a great job, and we can be so grateful for his hard work and contributions that we will all benefit greatly from.Cindy, wonderful tribute you wrote. Very comprehensive, and informative. You did a great job, and we can be so grateful for his hard work and contributions that we will all benefit greatly from.

  3. The Beach Sweep day that Senator Lautenberg came to address the clean-up volunteers is still vivid in my memory. He spoke glowingly of the volunteer work. Then he introduced a great advocate of the environment, Christopher Reeve. Reeve, in turn, wished to bring on an old friend who, the NY Times mentioned resembled him, Al Gore. Al Gore then came on and said that obviously the Times had never seen him with his shirt off.

    They both upstaged the good Senator. I'm sure he did not mind.

    Actually I even have a half-written letter to Senator Lautenberg about a month ago which I planned to finish but was suddenly involved in a minor accident. I'm keeping that letter as a reminder of a great advocate to so many good causes.