By William O’Hearn – Business Network for Offshore Wind
On Tuesday, June 19, an unlikely combination of academics, nonprofits, shipping experts, commercial fishermen, cruise line reps, port authorities and offshore wind developers and advocates, including Bill O’Hearn from the Business Network for Offshore Wind, assembled in the Washington, D.C. offices of the Ocean Conservancy as part of the Conservancy’s “Fly In” two-day lobbying effort to support regional ocean planning.
The group trained on key issues and talking points in the morning, and spent Tuesday afternoon with several federal agencies. Wednesday was devoted to meetings with U.S. representatives and their staffs. The goal was to impress upon the agencies and Congressional staffers the importance of preserving regional ocean organizations and the regional ocean data portals that allow users of all backgrounds to share and find information on all aspects of ocean research and data, including more than 3,500 maps.
The team of 16 volunteers split into two groups, one meeting with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the other with first the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ), and then the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
New National Ocean Policy
All the meetings were productive, with some good give and take on both sides. The OSTP/CEQ discussion turned out be even more important than expected, because Tuesday evening the Trump administration signed an executive order (EO) rescinding the existing national ocean policy established in 2010. The President’s new EO added emphasis on ‘industrial uses’ of the ocean vs. the previous focus on environmental stewardship, sustainability and environmental justice.
Fortunately, the funding for the regional ocean data portals and regional/state level groups like MARCO (Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean) will remain in place. Deerin Babb-Brott, OSTP Principal Assistant Director of Oceans and Environment, who met with the group, will now play a larger management role under the new policy.
The new ocean policy was a prominent topic of discussion on Wednesday, as the team broke into state groups and New Jersey’s team visited the offices of eight House representatives. O’Hearn went well over 10,000 steps on his fitbit as the team wandered through all three main House office buildings and delivered the following three messages:
- Ensure that federal agencies continue participation with states and stakeholders in regional ocean planning
- Protect the federal funding that supports ocean planning and the regional data portals
- Oppose any cuts to federal agencies like NOAA, BOEM and the Coast Guard who oversee the planning process and manage industries like commercial fishing and offshore wind.
The Network was pleased to have been a part of this lobbying effort in support of our colleagues at the Ocean Conservancy, and thank them for their leadership in continuing to press for the best possible data and outreach in protecting our oceans. You can go to the Ocean Conservancy website to download the new Executive Order and the Conservancy’s response to the revised policy.