This week the U.S. House of Representatives will mark up one of the most important pieces of legislation for the ocean: the appropriations bill that funds the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Budgets aren’t just numbers and spreadsheets; they set priorities. And investing in ocean science and management at NOAA is how we prioritize ocean health and the communities and economies that depend on the ocean.
Back in March, 19 coastal community leaders, researchers, small business owners and educators came to Washington, DC, to ask lawmakers to prioritize and invest in the ocean by passing a strong budget for NOAA in fiscal year 2020. These ocean champions, representing five states from Washington to Maine, met with NOAA officials and key appropriators in Congress to share stories from their own lives about the countless benefits they experience from NOAA’s efforts to protect, restore and manage our oceans and coasts.
Today, lawmakers are seeking to make those needed investments in our ocean by adding more than $54 million to NOAA’s budget for 2020 to target the oceans greatest challenges, including climate change, harmful algal blooms and sustainable fishery management. And they are doing it in the face of great adversity. The Trump Administration has proposed cutting NOAA’s budget by nearly $1 billion three years in a row. But Members of Congress like Jose Serrano (D-NY) and Nita Lowey (D-NY) aren’t buying it.
Rep. Serrano is focused on securing “robust funding to address climate change and support scientific research.” Rep. Lowey is seeking to make “investments to keep America on the cutting edge of scientific advancement” and to pursue “coastal resilience to better protect our communities.” As the two most senior members of the House of Representatives handling NOAA’s budget, they are not backing down on these priorities.
“NOAA represents sound science and working to find solutions to issues that threaten our Maine way of life like rising sea levels, rising ocean temperatures and shifting species.” —Ivy Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper
We still have a long way to go to secure a final budget for NOAA in 2020 that provides new investments in our ocean, but the standard has been set by the House this week. Up next, the Senate will also release a bill to fund NOAA, and the House and Senate will have to negotiate with the White House on final spending levels for the entire government.
For more information and opportunities to engage throughout the budget process, click here to receive email updates from Ocean Conservancy.