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Public Statements

Marine Debris Act Amendments of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LARSEN of Washington. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 1171, bipartisan legislation that reauthorizes the Marine Debris Research Prevention and Reduction Act through fiscal year 2016.

Just this June, on the Pacific coast, an entire 70-foot dock washed up on the coast of Oregon. This is only one piece of the estimated 1.5 million tons of marine debris from the disastrous 2011 Japanese tsunami that will wash up on the west coast. Disasters like this are why it is so important that we reauthorize this legislation today.

Marine debris remains a persistent threat to maritime safety and to the health of our oceans and to our lakes. Thanks to the enactment of the Marine Debris Research Prevention and Reduction Act in 2006, we now have a much better understanding of marine debris and its impact on our shorelines.

This law led to the establishment of effective partnerships between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, and the United States Coast Guard. It has led to better coordinated research and debris removal activities, and it built greater understanding of the challenges we face in addressing this threat.

Marine debris is a much larger and growing problem than we first thought, and with the recent disaster in Japan, it will continue to grow. Cleaning up marine debris takes coordination between several agencies and States and requires expensive resources to clean up.

Earlier this week, NOAA provided a new analysis estimating that it now costs the agency, on average, more than $4,300 to remove 1 ton of marine debris from the environment. NOAA also said that the dock that washed up on the shores of Oregon will cost $85,000 alone.

Despite what we've learned, and despite the fact that States on the Pacific coast and Hawaii will have to contend with 1.5 million tons of marine debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami for years to come, the majority has insisted on cutting authorized funding levels for this program in half. Cutting authorized funding for this program at this time seems shortsighted, and I'm confident that the Senate will insist on the higher authorized funding level in any final compromise bill.

But despite those reservations about the reduced funding levels in this bill as reported by the majority, it is imperative that we reauthorize the Marine Debris Act today to address this growing threat in our future.

I want to thank the sponsor of the legislation, the gentleman from California (Mr. Farr), for his extraordinary leadership on this issue. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting H.R. 1171.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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