Welcome to Ocean Watch; a weekly recap of federal and regional actions that impact the coastal and marine water quality and ecosystems of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean. Clean Ocean Action will aggregate and analyze these actions, and signify the impact and threat level to the Mid-Atlantic using color coding – Red is a high level threat, orange is intermediate, yellow is a caution, and green would be a positive action. While many of these actions have taken place in Washington DC, and don’t affect the mid-Atlantic directly, the direction of national energy, climate, and regulatory policy will have implications and impacts for the mid-Atlantic region.
Mid-Atlantic Ocean Watch – Week 7
NOAA Funding Chop
According to an inter-administration memo obtained by the Washington post, the Trump Administration will seek to cut the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget by 17 percent, specifically focusing deep cuts to research funding and satellite programs. Budget cuts would also eliminate funding for numerous other NOAA programs including grants for external research, coastal management, estuary reserves, and “coastal resilience”. NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would lose $126 million, or 26 percent, of the funds it has under the current budget. Its satellite data division would lose $513 million, or 22 percent, of its current funding under the proposal.
The National Marine Fisheries Service and National Weather Service would be fortunate by comparison, facing only 5 percent cuts, however, ask most fisheries scientists, and they will tell you that their programs were already underfunded significantly. In the Mid-Atlantic region, NOAA funding goes directly toward sea level rise adaptation, fisheries science, estuary programs, nonpoint source pollution abatement, and much more. Not to mention, our coastal communities have a vested interest in federal funding for satellites and research for climate and meteorological data. Finally, another proposed cut would eliminate a $73 million program called Sea Grant, which supports coastal research conducted through 33 university programs across the country. NJ Sea Grant has invested in coastal nonpoint control, and the maintenance of pump out stations for boats to empty their marine heads; a critical investment for our heavily used coastal waters.
Coast Guard Budget Cuts Too!
In stark contrast to the Trump Administration’s proposed budget increase of 9.2 percent ($54 Billion increase) in Defense spending, this military buildup will not apply to the US Coast Guard. In fact, the Coast Guard is being targeted for a roughly 10 percent budget cut according to documents from the Office of Management and Budget.
The US Coast Guard is continually underfunded and undermanned, with a total force of 56,000 (slightly larger than NYC’s police department) tasked with protecting the 95,000 miles of American coastline, and responsible for rapid response on issues ranging from navigational safety, shipping related pollution and discharge monitoring, oil spill monitoring and response, drug smuggling, illegal immigration, vessel rescue and response, among many other services. It is unclear how President Trump can justify a cut to such an essential branch of Government whose services are overwhelmingly geared toward protecting domestic interests.
EPA Administrator is a Fossil Fuel Industry Parrot
On Thursday, Scott Pruitt, the new chief at the Environmental Protection Agency, and NOT a scientist himself, took a line right from the fossil fuel industry’s playbook and issued the newer, softer form of climate denialism that has been making its rounds within the Trump Administration. Pruitt said measuring the effect of human activity on the climate is "very challenging" and that "there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact" of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. This is of course false, as over 97% of scientists working in the climate field agree that the climate is warming, and that warming is overwhelmingly due to human caused emissions of greenhouse gases. This has not been a serious scientific debate in over 30 years, and Pruitt’s statement is at odds with the overwhelming scientific consensus, the very agency he oversees, as well as NASA and NOAA, and of course, reality. Consider:
· NASA and NOAA reported in January that earth's 2016 temperatures were the warmest ever. The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century, "a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere," the agencies said in a joint statement.
· The EPA says on its website that "carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change." The agency notes that human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, "release large amounts of CO2, causing concentrations in the atmosphere to rise."
· New Jersey just experienced the warmest February on record, with a statewide average temperature just one degree below the typical average for March. Numerous other Cities and States throughout the region and country experienced the warmest February and/or warmest February day ever recorded as well.
Lobbyists in the Swamp
While the high profile nominations get much of the press and publicity (along with Senate confirmation votes) the Trump Administration has also quietly moved to fill the hundreds of lower level government positions. ProPublica recently published a list of 400 or so lower level “beach head” positions meant to implement the Trump Administration’s agenda and report on agency activities.
Most relevant to COA’s work in advocating for stronger clean water and environmental protections, is the number of former lobbyists from industry appointed to work in agencies that directly regulate their former professions. This conflict of interest was a key reason Trump campaigned on banning former lobbyists. However the ProPublica list proves otherwise, as they “found at least 36 (former lobbysits), spanning industries from health insurance and pharmaceuticals to construction, energy and finance. Many of them lobbied in the same areas that are regulated by the agencies they have now joined.” According to ProPublica, that number is also probably a vast underestimate, as they included those who formally registered as lobbyists, a process by many in Washington. See the full list at: https://projects.propublica.org/graphics/beachhead
The Gulf of Mexico is a Sacrifice Zone
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today announced that the Department will offer 73 million acres offshore Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida for oil and gas exploration and development. The proposed region-wide lease sale scheduled for August 16, 2017 would include all available unleased areas in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. For comparison sake, New Jersey is a hair under 4.5 million acres.
The Gulf of Mexico continues to support heavy fossil fuel extraction activities, including routine and accidental discharges, spills, and leaks, as well as disruptive exploration activities. In a region heavily impacted by sea level rise and storm surge, the continued sacrifice of this amazing bioregion to the fossil fuel industry is self-defeating, and a clear warning to all those on the Atlantic Coast that a clean ocean economy does not mix with fossil fuel extraction.
Next week, sources have indicated that the Trump Administration is expected to sign an Executive Order targeting the Clean Power Plan – President Obama’s signature climate change regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. This will be a lengthy process of withdrawing and rewriting these rules complete with notice and comment opportunities.
In the coming weeks, Trump is also expected to begin the process of overturning President Obama’s moratorium on new federal coal leases on public land, automobile vehicle efficiency standards, United Nation climate program funding, and potentially withdrawing the US from the 200-nation Paris Climate Agreement (a step that would undermine the international effort to confront global climate change).
The irony: New Jersey just experienced the warmest February on record, with a statewide average temperature just one degree below the typical average for March. Numerous other Cities and States throughout the region and country experienced the warmest February and/or warmest February day ever recorded as well.
YOUR VOICE IS NEEDED!
· The executive orders and congressional actions of the last week have reinforced how vital it is that every citizen engage with their elected officials. In this day and age of instant communication, there is no excuse for not contacting your elected officials. Use the links below to find your representatives and let them know how important clean water and strong environmental protections are.
§ Call your US Senators: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
§ Call your US House of Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/
o State Level:
§ Contact your Governor: https://www.usa.gov/state-governor
§ For NJ residents, contact your State Senate and Assembly Representatives: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/districts/njmap210.html
§ For NY residents, contact your State Senate and Assembly Representatives: http://www.elections.ny.gov/district-map/district-map.html