There is nothing like a bit of good news to start off the work week.
In a heartening display of bipartisan unity, the Senate just passed the Save Our Seas Act, a small but significant piece of legislation. This is an important step forward as America shows leadership in the global fight to tackle the marine debris crisis.
The bill has two primary components:
- It calls on the Executive Branch to get the U.S. State Department more engaged in addressing marine debris. The State Department would do this by working directly with countries that have been identified as significant sources of ocean plastic. This process will help open a dialogue about potential solutions, including waste management infrastructure, to reduce trash leaking into the marine environment. Not only is Congress recognizing the marine debris problem is global in nature but they are also recognizing that the State Department has an important role to play to make a meaningful reduction in the amount of trash flowing into our ocean.
- It reauthorizes NOAA’s Marine Debris Program for five years at a maximum of $10 million per year. This is important because as the federal budget continues to be squeezed, programs are being pitted against each other for limited funding. While many federal programs operate with expired Congressional authorizations and still receive appropriated funds, a program that has specifically been reauthorized by Congress is more likely to be prioritized for funding during the annual Federal budget process. In short, being authorized by Congress is a clear signal that your program is a priority and is likely to be protected from budget cuts.
Ocean Conservancy is grateful for the leadership shown by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) who introduced the SOS Act with fellow Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Senate Democrats Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Corey Booker (D-NJ). At a time when bipartisan collaboration is in short supply, their example stands out.
We hope this bipartisan show of leadership inspires the House of Representatives. The bill is already off to a good start with Republican Don Young (AK) and Democrat Suzanne Bonamici (OR), who introduced a House-version of the SOS Act in May 2017. Next up is a committee hearing on the bill. There is a lot of work ahead but today, we can celebrate an important milestone.
We are thrilled that our elected representatives understand that plastic pollution in our ocean and on beaches matters to all Americans. We urge members of Congress to join with the sponsors of the SOS Act. Together, we can stem the tide and achieve our vision of trash free seas!