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House Resource Committee Passes Pallone Legislation to Combat Trash in Oceans

Location: Washington, DC

November 16, 2005

Washington, D.C. --- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), ranking Democrat on the House Fisheries and Oceans Subcommittee, said today that the House Resources Committee approved legislation he introduced earlier this year that provides additional support to regional and local ocean clean-up efforts.

The Marine Debris Research, Prevention and Reduction Act establishes a joint federal program led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Coast Guard, which will research new methods to prevent marine debris and encourage increased enforcement of laws combating ocean dumping. The legislation now goes to the House Transportation Committee, which must approve it before a vote can be taken on the House floor.

"While enhancing public education about the issue, this legislation would also bolster efforts to better understand the origination and nature of marine debris and would provide funding for activities to prevent the introduction of debris in the first place," Pallone said. "The bill would ensure that progress continues to be made on this important issue and I am encouraged by the strong bipartisan support it received today."

Pallone said marine debris has been a huge issue in New Jersey for many years. He reminded his colleagues that it was not too long ago that the New York Bight - a 19,000 square mile area off the coasts of New York and New Jersey - was known infamously as the "Ocean Dumping Capital of the World."

Pallone said that several shallow and deepwater dumpsites in the New York Bight accepted tons and tons of noxious and dangerous waste materials on a daily basis. As a result, the New Jersey shoreline, once known for its ecological richness, became identified with beach closures caused by floating medical waste, contaminated sediments and degraded water quality. The New Jersey congressman said not only was this bad for human health and the environment, but also incredibly harmful to the state's tourism economy.

Over the past twenty years, Pallone and constituents in his district, including a group called Clean Ocean Action, pushed federal, state and local authorities to address this problem. The New Jersey congressman said they were able to make significant progress in implementing programs to eliminate or reduce the volume, character and persistence of marine debris.

"Our accomplishments are impressive," Pallone said. "For example, all of the former ocean dumpsites have been closed; our coastal waters are more closely monitored; beach sweeps since 1993 have removed over 300 tons of trash from our shores; and we have seen the development of an informed coastal constituency demanding a clean, safe and productive marine environment. Yet, there is much more that can be done, and that is why the Marine Debris Research, Prevention and Reduction Act is so important."

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