Ocean acidification bills coast to committee

What it was

The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Environment held a markup on several ocean and estuarine acidification bills. All four bills were favorably reported to the full committee.

Why it matters

The ocean’s absorption of excess carbon dioxide emissions is creating major thermal and chemical changes in the marine environment, including more acidic water. Increased acidity can disrupt important ocean systems and resources, such as shellfish industries and coral reef-associated fisheries, endangering coastal economies. The full impacts of ocean acidification on marine and coastal ecosystems are widespread but not well understood. Legislation at the federal level can strengthen efforts to address these knowledge gaps to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Key points

In the first House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Environment markup of a new Congress, members from both parties praised one another on their ability to work together on bipartisan bills on important subjects to ensure the health of the nation’s coasts.

The Coastal and Ocean Acidification Stressors and Threats (COAST) Research Act of 2019 (H.R. 1237) would reauthorize the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act (FOARAM) of 2009 for fiscal year (FY) 2019 through FY 2023 and update the legislation to strengthen federal efforts in understanding the effects of ocean and coastal acidification. The legislation would also provide long-term stewardship and standardization of data on ocean acidification and coastal acidification using existing assets from the National Centers for Environmental Information and the Integrated Ocean Observing System.

The Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2019 (H.R. 1716) would support federal ocean acidification research and monitoring efforts by requiring the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to conduct community vulnerability assessments. These assessments would identify the socioeconomic needs of coastal communities dependent on resources that may be impacted by ocean acidification.

H.R. 988, the National Estuaries and Acidification Research (NEAR) Act of 2019, would direct the Ocean Studies Board of the National Academy of Science to conduct a study on the impacts of ocean acidification on our nation’s ecologically and economically important estuarine environments.

These three bills were favorably reported to the full committee with no amendments.

Chairwoman Lizzie Fletcher (TX-7) offered an amendment to the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act of 2019 (H.R. 1921), a bill that would create prize competitions incentivizing innovative solutions to help vulnerable communities better understand, monitor, and respond to ocean acidification. The amendment strikes the authorization of funding from H.R. 1921 because it is included in the COAST Research Act of 2019 (H.R. 1237).

Quotable

“Now, we need to help prepare … potentially vulnerable communities and industries. However, there is still a long way to go in understanding, predicting, and preparing for changes in ocean chemistry, which is why we need to enhance existing federal efforts and add more tools to the toolbox, as the bills we’re marking up today will accomplish.” — Chairwoman Lizzie Fletcher (TX-7)

“The measures today have been offered by a bipartisan group of members representing coastal districts most impacted by ocean acidification. Whether through better coordination across federal agencies or though expansion and improvements to existing programs, these bills modify the way that we approach changes to marine ecosystems.” — Ranking Member Roger Marshall (KS-1)

Next steps

A markup of the bills will occur at the full committee level. Bills that move out of the full committee will be sent to the House floor.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership, 12 April 2019. Article.

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