Protect Our Waters, It’s Free!



Wouldn’t it be great if you could help fulfill a national responsibility to give back to the environment, without shelling out money? Luckily, there is! A bipartisan bill has been introduced which would use money the government is already receiving and give it back to the oceans.


Senator Whitehouse (RI) and Senator Snowe (ME), with the support of other senators from Congress, have introduced S.973, “to protect, conserve, restore, and understand the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes of the United States, ensuring present and future generations will benefit from the full range of ecological, economic, educational, social, cultural, nutritional, and recreational opportunities and services these resources are capable of providing.” The “National Endowment for the Oceans Act”, strives to provide funds to a council that will oversee the many agencies doing their part to protect our waters. Many marine conservation and environmental groups, including the Marine Conservation Institute, are jumping on board to support this bill (to see a list of supporting organizations, see below). The best part is, through every step of the plan, public input is required.


The bill also states that “not more than 3 percent [of Endowment funds] may be used for administrative expenses,” so almost all the money the Endowment receives will go directly towards the cause of saving our oceans and Great Lakes. Those who receive grants must create a 5-year plan to conduct research and promote the welfare of our oceans and Great Lakes, with specific attention to its economic, social, and ecological well being. This ensures exploration and investigation into long-term conservation methods.


What’s great about this bill?


S.973 has two amazing things going for it. The first is, of course, the dedicated attention to our oceans and Great Lakes. Now, more than ever, the waters of the world need our help. We must do all we can to protect and conserve our oceans and Great Lakes, for us and for future generations, and this bill would be a big help. The second great thing about this bill is the bipartisan, multi-state cooperation. We all need to work together for the protection of our oceans and Great Lakes, and this requires teamwork and collaboration. The bill requires agreement across state lines, between all political parties, and throughout our country.

What happens in our waters greatly affects everyone in the United States, and as such, we must all collaborate to protect the Great Lakes and oceans. What better way is there to foster unity in our great country, than working together toward something we all love and need? Our oceans provide 2.3 million jobs to Americans, and it’s about time we said “thanks”.


So that’s the gist of the bill: a great way to foster unity and help our oceans and Great Lakes. The biggest question now, is what can I do? What role can I play? The answer is simple: get involved! Write a letter to your senators, rally support for the bill, and keep working to protect our oceans! (Don’t know who your senators are? That’s okay! Click here)


Where do the funds come from?


The wonderful thing for taxpayers about this bill, is that the Endowment collects funds from other, previously-established funds. In other words, some of your tax money, which usually goes into a generic Treasury fund, will be put into this Endowment.

· The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) established under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986: If the OSLTF collects an average daily balance of $1.5 billion during any given year (after the 2011 Fiscal Year), the excess money goes to the Endowment.

· The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). The National Endowment for the Oceans Act will amend the OCSLA so that 12.5% of the revenue collected will go to the Endowment.

· 10% of funds collected from civil violations of the laws established in:

o The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (we know it as the “Clean Water Act”);

o The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980;

o The Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (aka the “Ocean Dumping Act”);

o The Oil Pollution Act of 1990; Chapter 601 of title 49, United States Code; and

o The Act of March 3, 1899;

· Civil tort issues which occur on the outer Continental Shelf: If punitive damages are awarded, and if the damages exceed $100,000, 25% of the leftover money will go to the Endowment.



Sponsors and Co-Sponsors:

Sen. Whitehouse (RI)

Sen. Snowe (ME)

Sen. Inouye (HI)

Sen. Landrieu (LA)

Sen. Nelson (FL)

Sen. Rockefeller (WV)

Sen. Stabenow (MI)


Organizations voicing support for the bill:

Marine Conservation Institute

Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Champions

NRDC

Consortium of Ocean Leadership

Wired for Change

Aquanet

The Ocean Lobby

Surfrider Foundation

Underwater Journal

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