REPUBLICANS AMEND R&D BILL TO PROMOTE ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND OFFSHORE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT
Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology passed two bills, H.R. 4174, the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2007 and H.R. 5618, the National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2008. Republicans at the markup offered amendments to H.R. 5618 to focus research and development (R&D) on ways to extract offshore energy reserves in an environmentally-sound way.
H.R. 5618, the National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2008 is a partnership between state and federal government, universities, and the private sector to promote the understanding, conservation, and management of our ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources. The legislation increases interaction between the National Sea Grant Office and the individual state programs, increases funding levels, and improves programmatic performance reviews.
"H.R. 5618 continues the great tradition of utilizing our nation's universities to train the next generation of ocean researchers while at the same time, providing invaluable benefits to coastal communities and other stakeholders," said Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX). "I believe this bill creates a strong foundation upon which future challenges can be addressed and overcome."
Republicans were successful in improving H.R. 5618 with an amendment offered by Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) that adds a program element to the National Sea Grant College Program to minimize conflicts and delays in the production of offshore oil and gas, geothermal, wind, and thermal ocean power. A secondary amendment by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) was adopted, adjusting the amendment language to include the exploration of environmental and scientific considerations in the energy research, relative to the development of ocean and coastal energy resources.
"The amendment will ensure that the partners to the Sea Grant College program will look at ways to minimize conflicts between the environmental community and the development of energy resources," said Akin. "It will require the program to provide support to research and training within education programs to ensure that the various needs of the country are balanced. As we seek to site windmills or utilize natural gas or geothermal resources in the ocean's floors, my amendment will require an approach to this program that will balance these competing interests."
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, also offered an amendment, which would incorporate in the Sea Grant College Program curriculum to research the expedited production of offshore energy resources. The amendment would have focused the National Sea Grant Program, originally adopted in 1966, back towards one of the Program's original goals - to better understand our oceanic resources as an important energy supply. The amendment was narrowly defeated, after receiving votes in favor from both sides of the aisle.
"Unfortunately, Congress in 1966 seemed to be light years ahead of today's Congress in 2008, because it was open to the potential of exploring and understanding what offshore domestic energy resources our nation had to offer," said Gingrey. "With the improved technologies available for energy exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf, it is time that this program once again lives up to its initial promise from over 40 years ago. At a time when families are paying $4.07 for a gallon of regular gas, it is long overdue that we put in place the processes to explore American offshore energy resources."
Also passing out of Committee today with unanimous support was a manager's amendment to H.R. 4174, the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2007, cosponsored by Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC), Ranking Member of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee. The bill establishes an Interagency Committee on Ocean Acidification to oversee the establishment, and coordination of a plan to improve the understanding of the role of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and to develop adaptation techniques to effectively conserve these important ecosystems.