Obama Launching ‘Ocean Initiative’ – Too little too late?

The LA Times has a story on the new Ocean Initiative of the Obama Administration. While the task force has been out thinking this new way of protecting the oceans over the last year, the administration has gone from supporting oil drilling and further drilling off the coasts to dealing with the worse oil spills near US shores in history. An entire swath of environmentally sensitive water and shores, including approx. 40% of our shrimp harvest nationally has been destroyed, along with thousands, if not tens of thousands of jobs. Now we get a series of recommendations that ” would not create new regulations or immediately alter drilling plans or fisheries management.”  This will ultimately end up with regs created that will affect us here on the Straits and Hood Canal.

This new set of regs would establish a kind of ocean zoning. My immediate reaction is, ‘so how exactly would that have helped prevent the disaster that is unfolding in front of our eyes in the Gulf?” What really changes? Zoning creates places where oil can be drilled, the well blows, and all the other locations still get trashed. I will await more info on how this is to be implemented.  The notion that somehow we are going to set aside “environmental zones” in the ocean seems ridiculous on its’ face. The ocean doesn’t have “zones”. What spills  in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas when it comes to the ocean.  Does this mean we are going to let certain zones get trashed and somehow keep it all intact? Ridiculous on it’s face.

But this is how the sausage gets made, in politics. We’ll now have years of meetings to discuss the changes, which have been discussed for years already. We then will  have to adopt to this new rules process and see if any further gains in environmental protection can be gotten from them. And in the meantime, no one is seriously being asked to change their lifestyles to support less use of oil. We are subsidizing all sorts of silly activities, but really getting things to change is really hard. And of course the oil industry objects to it saying it’s unworkable. It’s time to ask them to stand down, as they have caused enough destruction in the last six months to last many lifetimes. Just ask the shrimpers in the Gulf.

Read the story and think for yourself…


Quote of the week:

“The oil and natural gas industry’s presence in the Gulf [of Mexico] has successfully coexisted with other ocean uses like tourism, fishing, the U.S. military and shipping for many years, demonstrating that the current system of governance works well.” – American Petroleum Institute

As did Chernobyl..

4 Responses

  1. Well, thanks you two. I don’t claim to be an expert on any of this, just involved. It’s good to hear some more positive points of view on this initiative. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of time and expense put into making sure that all points of view are taken and everyone brought to the table on issues. This often leads to analysis paralysis and endless discussions to get anything done. And then there’s the lawsuits. But it’s good to hear that many of these ideas have had better results in the smaller situations. Undoubtedly, there will be a lot more to come on this issue, and I’ll post it here. As to the ballast water, I don’t know. I’ll see if I can find the documents and read up on it. But I would guess it’s a bit too early to know what the details are on this.

    As to the question you raise of ballast regulation, there is a definite tension between state’s rights and national policy. It works both ways. The Feds, through the Coast Guard, have been a bottleneck (behind the scenes) for getting our rescue tug implemented over the years, for example. There’s an interesting backstory to this, which I’ll save for a rainy day, but needless to say, for every Alaska that has a state’s rights leaning towards less government regs of environmental protection, there are states, like Washington, that fight the Feds to get stronger regs.

    The largest elect legislative voice of the people voted bi- partisan 395-7 in 2008 for the change we needed for ballast water standards. Another Military study is just to delay action, as the Coast Guard initially purpose a twenty plus year plan to follow an international organization made up of primarily foreign economic interest.(IMO) Industry is wining the battle on ballast water the same way they always have, with the help of this administration, by a myriad of different state laws and various branches of government in charge of different aspects of the same problem, making it impossible to enforce. This is evident by the tar balls in Lake Pontchartrain. Despite repeated warnings to this administration about ballast water being problematic with ocean development, neither the Coast Guard nor the EPA, bothered to enforce the Clean Water Act, even in this time of disaster in the gulf. One can only wonder how well the Department of Homeland Security is bothering to watch for the real possibility of these systems being used by terrorist. As Americans are without work and a study prepared for congress in Dec 2009 suggesting the cost of foreign imports would rise with federal ballast legislation, our president feels negotiating hidden carbon emission and currency manipulation with a communist country is the way to create jobs. This is evident by his public rift with rep Oberstar on how to create jobs. Rep Oberstar was instrumental in ballast legislation in 2008 that passed, bi-partisan 395-7 in the House, only to be killed by one Senator. Senator Boxer, who the president supports for re-election killed this change, over her ideas about state rights. NY’s governor Patterson who has created laws for ballast water that will affect all Great Lakes States in the presidential election year (2012), was ask by President Obama to step aside during mid-term elections. It will be interesting to see how NY’S next governor will defend the work of Governor Patterson.
    The president ocean initiative policy, plans to follow internatioal laws and treaties that have traditionally been adhered to, as areas of our oceans are divide for development. The Law of the Sea Treaty has provisions for ballast water, that do not address our nations specific currents and the geographical placement of our natural resources, to insure the safe use of ballast systems with ocean development. New ocean development minerals, oil, fishing, exploration all will release substances that will be moved by these system. New chemical technologies used in ballast systems could interact with yet unknown substances released through development. Will the presidents ocean initiatives plan exclude the shipping lanes used to bring foreign goods into our country from our economic development to help create jobs?

  3. I am disappointed that you are not encouraged by the new National Policy. The National Great Lakes and Ocean Policy encourages the federal government to better coordinate its actions, and to work with the states and stakeholders to clean our waters and ensure that industries of the Nation’s Oceans and the Great Lakes – including fishing, tourism, and recreation – remain strong.

    Zoning areas is not a new concept – examples of zoning areas for certain uses include Navy Training Areas, Harbor areas, Ports, marinas, fishery management zones, sanctuary zones, reserves, Marine Protection Areas, Critical Habitat, shellish protection, etc….The problem is, there is no consistent method to classifying or categorizing these areas. It becomes harder and harder to learn what an area has been classified as, under different agencies, and what uses are, and are not, compatible.

    This Policy addresses that problem (among other items). By identifying appropriate uses (zones), the National Great Lakes and Ocean policy works to minimize conflicts between human uses and their potential impacts. It also requires an open and transparent planning process that allows everyone to work together on a vision for the future of the Great Lakes and the nation’s ocean areas.

    All levels of government, business interests, fisheries managers, and conservation groups have input into the decision-making process.

    To address your question about how this Policy could help prevent future oil spills, well, perhaps if this policy were in place before, the public, fishery, and conservation groups would have said “No” to drilling off the Gulf, and the Deepwater Horizon would have never been built and we would not have the Gulf clean up, yes?

    It is my hope that this new policy improves the planning process for uses of the ocean and the Great Lakes. That is why I supported it.

  4. So, here is a more positive take on the Oceans Initiative, from the People For Puget Sound. Full Disclosure: I am on the board of P4PS!

    We have exciting news to report to you. Earlier this week, the Obama administration unveiled the country’s first comprehensive National Ocean Policy to better protect, maintain and restore our nation’s oceans, coasts and Great Lakes. This policy is the culmination of a year-long process that started when the President convened the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force in June of 2009. The Policy “serves as a model of balanced, productive, efficient, sustainable, and informed ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes use, management, and conservation within the global community.”[i]

    The National Ocean Policy is a good first step by the federal government uniting in its efforts to protect and restore our waters, including Puget Sound. Stepped up efforts are needed by federal and state governments in oil spill prevention and response, orca and endangered species recovery, protection of shoreline habitats like Maury Island from damaging projects like gravel docks, and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations.

    This historic policy is due to the work and support of tens of thousands of ocean users, like yourself, across the country over the last year through post cards, emails and letters.

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