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What the America COMPETES Act Means for Our Ocean

How Congress is bolstering U.S. leadership in science and technology—and why it matters for our ocean

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Offshore wind energy. © Dennis van de Water/Shutterstock

Congress is working hard on legislation to bolster the United States’ leadership in science and technology and support a clean energy economy that is “made in America.” This is great news for our ocean because a healthy ocean is essential to our ability to thrive as a nation, grow our economy and advance climate solutions.

So, what has Congress been working on? Earlier this year, the House passed the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength Act of 2022 (also known as the America COMPETES Act). This bill aims to boost United States competitiveness by investing in infrastructure that enables research and by making training more accessible and affordable. These investments include many important ocean and climate provisions.

The America COMPETES Act is a companion bill to the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) that the Senate passed in May of 2021. The USICA aims to boost America’s global competitiveness by reauthorizing programs at the National Science Foundation and National Aeronautics and Space Administration, expanding federal support for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiatives in higher education, other research sectors and more. However, the USICA did not include many of the important ocean and climate provisions that were included in the America COMPETES Act.

At Ocean Conservancy, we know that a healthy ocean and climate are critical to our competitiveness as a nation. We have an opportunity to grow a clean energy economy and ensure that the ocean is a central part of the solution to mitigating climate change. The America COMPETES Act includes necessary steps to mitigate climate change, adapt to worsening impacts and protect our marine ecosystems and coastal economies. Here are some of the benefits for our ocean and coasts that we are the most excited to see included:

  • Protection for marine life: Marine life, from coral reefs to marine mammals and seabirds, face continuing threats from climate change, ecosystem loss and disease outbreaks. The America COMPETES Act provides support by expanding Arctic marine rescue and response capabilities for marine mammals, creating a platform to collect and report data about the death of marine mammals, establishing new programs for coral research and conservation, and conducting an assessment to measure the impact of oil spills and plastic ingestion on sea life.
  • Climate resilience for coastal communities: Coastal communities and economies are at risk from some of the unavoidable impacts of climate change like sea level rise and more frequent and severe storms. The America COMPETES Act authorizes grants for shovel-ready projects to restore marine, estuarine, coastal and Great Lakes habitats. This effort will create jobs and aid in climate change adaptation.
  • Better fisheries data and ocean acidification monitoring: The U.S. shellfish industry is suffering from impacts of ocean acidification. This industry is also in direct competition with exports from other nations, like China. The America COMPETES Act includes programs that will advise on coastal and ocean acidification research and monitoring and that will provide better access to that data.
  • Advancing offshore wind for climate mitigation: The United States must make investments in responsible offshore wind development to be a leader in clean energy production. President Biden made a commitment to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy in the United States by 2030, and the America COMPETES Act solidifies this commitment into law. It also restores the Department of the Interior’s ability to hold offshore wind lease sales in federal waters off the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Support in Congress for these important provisions for our ocean and climate is an important first step. But our work is not done.

So, what’s next? The U.S. House and Senate are working together to write a final bill that combines the pieces of the USICA and the America Competes Act that they can agree on. The USICA, unfortunately, did not include many of the important ocean and coastal provisions that were included in the House-passed America COMPETES Act. Ocean Conservancy is working hard to make sure that Congress keeps these important ocean and climate provisions in the final bill. We must take these steps to mitigate climate change, adapt to worsening climate change impacts and protect our marine ecosystems and coastal economies to support U.S. competitiveness for years to come. Your support of our work to accomplish this goal is greatly needed and appreciated.

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