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 10
Clean Power Plan AXED
On Tuesday, 3.28, the White House released its executive order on the Clean Power Plan, triggering President Trump's promises to dismantle the climate policies of his predecessor. the order would begin the long process of unwinding the Clean Power Plan by requiring Pruitt to review the program, which cuts carbon emissions from existing power plants 32 percent by 2030. It also orders the Department of Justice to ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to abruptly freeze the legal challenge against the Clean Power Plan, effectively ending the government's defense of the carbon program. The order is also expected to cancel the Obama Whitehouse directed “Climate Action Plan”, while instructing federal agencies to review all regulations and actions that restrict energy production
The order itself does not have legal force to repeal the Clean Power Plan, but it does send a signal to EPA to begin the process of rulemaking and public comment necessary to rescind it. The administration would then have to prove that the repeal was evidence-based and not arbitrary, said Steve Silverman, a former EPA attorney in the Office of General Counsel.
Government studies have shown that canceling the Clean Power Plan would have minimal benefits to mining jobs in some regions. Meanwhile, natural gas production in the United States has surged following advances in hydraulic fracturing. Power companies have lowered their carbon footprints by switching away from coal and toward natural gas and renewable power. Technologies to cut carbon output for coal plants, however, are not widely in use.
Of note; the Clean Power Plan, although finalized by EPA, has been in purgatory since its’ inception due to numerous lawsuits by industry and States. The Trump Administration’s Justice Department asked the D.C. Circuit Court (overseeing these consolidated lawsuits against the CPP) to suspend the lawsuit challenging EPA's Clean Power Plan because the rule "may be significantly modified or rescinded" as a result of Trump's order.
COAL MINING MORATORIUM LIFTED
Wasting no time after the order's signing, Zinke intends today at 10 a.m. to sign secretarial orders reviving an internal advisory committee on energy leasing and royalties and he will formally rescind the Obama administration's coal leasing moratorium by signing Secretarial Order 3348. The order notes that the federal coal leasing program supplies approximately 40 percent of the coal produced in the United States and is critically important to the U.S. economy.
If you recall, the Obama administration had included the Mid-Atlantic outer continental shelf region in the 2017-2022 5 year lease plan for offshore drilling, yet at the last moment removed the area from the plan due to conflicts with military activities and widespread organized opposition to drilling in the Atlantic. Unfortunately, it appears that this decision is going to be revisited, with Secretary of Interior Zinke announcing that he will be reviewing all Interior Department regulations, including the 5 year offshore drilling plan. Secretarial Order 3349 implements the Trump Executive Order by directing a “reexamination of the mitigation and climate change polices and guidance across the Department of the Interior”…
This should set of the alarms of all those who depend upon a clean ocean in the Atlantic. Oil does not respect state boundaries. Seismic blasting to discover these reserves does no discriminate between a dolphin from New Jersey and a whale from Florida. Call your congressional representatives TODAY, and tell them that offshore oil and gas drilling anywhere in the Atlantic is not acceptable!
TRANSCO PIPELINE MOVES CLOSER TO CONSTRUCTION
Williams Partners L.P. is an energy infrastructure corporation that focuses mainly on hydrocarbon pipeline infrastructure. Williams owns and operates TRANSCO; one of the nation’s largest interstate natural gas transmission pipeline system, moving gas from Texas, the Gulf, Mid-West, and Marcellus regions, to the densely populated Atlantic seaboard and Northeast markets.
Williams Transco is pursuing an expansion of an already existing reach of pipeline that extends from the NJ Bayshore, under Raritan Bay, to Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island. The project is moving slowly through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) process; however recently, the company reached a major milestone when it submitted its formal 7(c) Natural Gas Certificate Application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). This filing initiates the formal application review process and signals the start to public scoping meetings and eventually a comment period and public meetings will be opened for the project. This project is being called the “Northeast Supply Enhancement project”. COA will continue to monitor the status of this proposal. Stay tuned as we learn more.
The repeal of the Obama era Coal Mining Stream Protection Rule and the Bureau of Land Management Planning regulations have been signed into law by President Trump. However, the debate over the reversal of BLM's natural gas drilling "Venting and Flaring Rule" isn't over. While the Trump administration hinted at its own plans for the rule's disposal in this week's climate and energy focused Executive Order, the Senate could reverse the rule now under a pending vote on a Congressional Review Act bill.
Save our Seas Act
U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) today introduced S. 756, the bipartisan Save our Seas (SOS) Act to help address the marine debris epidemic affecting America’s ocean shorelines and inland waterways, as well as other coasts across the globe. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) have also co-sponsored the bill.
The Save our Seas (SOS) Act works to address three critical areas:
- Allow the NOAA Administrator to declare severe marine debris events and authorize funds to assist with cleanup and response. The Governor of the affected state may request the NOAA Administrator make this declaration.
- The bill would reauthorize NOAA’s Marine Debris Program through FY2022. Its mission is to conduct research on the source of marine debris and take action to prevent and clean up marine debris.
- Encourages the Executive Branch – led by the U.S. State Department – to engage with the leaders of nations responsible for the majority of marine debris, examining the causes of ocean debris, effective prevention and mitigation strategies, and the economic benefits for treaty nations in addressing the crisis.
Gilibrand introduces S.765 To protect Long Island Sound
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand [D-NY] introduced a bill reauthorizing and funding an EPA program supporting Long Island Sound water quality restoration. The bill provides for strategy planning, education, and, monitoring efforts, and was recently referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works: Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife which will consider it before sending it to the Senate floor for consideration. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D-NY] is a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
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