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Six Years Later, Strong Uncertainty About President Obama's National Ocean Policy Remains

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 17, 2016 -

Today, the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held an oversight hearing on “The Implications of President Obama’s National Ocean Policy.”

President Obama established the National Ocean Council (Council) in 2010, composed of 24 federal officials. The Council is required to develop a framework for coastal and marine spatial planning—an initiative viewed as “zoning” oceans for conservation, public and economic uses. Executive branch actions related to National Ocean Policy (NOP) have no specific statutory authority and little information is available as to how these plans will regulate and interact with existing regulation.

“This policy is another chapter in the death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy this Administration employs against the people and communities who depend on our natural resources on land and under water. Federal zoning on both land and water creates uncertainty, which in turn breeds litigation. It’s a clever way to impose a web of federal layers of bureaucracy—a recipe for stagnation,” Vice Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said.

The top-down nature of the Council and lack of transparency has and will continue to create a host of uncertainties for local businesses. Witnesses spoke to their own personal experiences.

“The NOP […] is likely to create new and expanded regulatory requirements in addition to those we have, creating more regulatory burdens and expanding costs to our businesses,” President of the National Association of Charterboat Operators Bob Zales said.

“We still live in the uncertainty of what may happen with this,” Fisheries Liaison of Seafreeze, Ltd. Meghan Lapp said.

“We ask that you, the Members of this Subcommittee, put yourself in the shoes of our family farmers and ranchers as they view these daunting administrative initiatives in the course of growing food and fiber for our nation and the world in an already daunting environment of risks beyond their control,” Executive Director of the Family Farm Alliance Dan Keppen stated.

Administration witness Elizabeth Kerttula, Director of the Council, declined her invitation to testify.

Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) asked witnesses Keppen, Lapp and Zales if they have received any clarity on how the NOP might impact their industry. All answered “no.”

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) questioned the panel about whether or not in their own experience the Council actively included stakeholder input. Again, Keppen, Lapp and Zales all answered “no.” Lapp expressed in her opening statement that as a stakeholder, she does not believe her interests matter to the Administration.

Rep. McClintock suggested it’s a “conclusion-driven process”—the Council has already drawn their conclusions and are only listening to those who agree with them. In this framework, some stakeholders are treated more equally than others.

Six years after implementation of the Council, uncertainty among stakeholders is higher than ever.

Click HERE to view full witness testimony. 

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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