Whitehouse, Markey, Merkley Push CEQ Nominee Neumayr for Answers on Ocean Policy

 

EPW members expect answers on protecting vital ocean and coastal resources to earn their support

 

Washington, DC – Senate Oceans Caucus Co-Chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and fellow Oceans Caucus members Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) pressed President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, Mary Neumayr, on her views on important federal initiatives to help protect and manage ocean resources.  During her confirmation process, Whitehouse, Markey, and Merkley pressed Neumayr on her views on the Trump administration’s new federal ocean policy, which she would implement if confirmed.  However, the commitments she has so far provided fall short, the senators write, raising doubts about whether the three Senate Environment and Public Works Committee members will support her nomination.

 

While we welcomed your general commitment to work with us and other members of the Senate Oceans Caucus on ocean data and monitoring and marine debris issues, your answers to other questions failed to provide sufficient detail about your view of this administration’s executive order on ocean policy and how you will implement it,” the senators write.  “Though we are eager to find opportunities to work together if you are confirmed as CEQ Chair, we are hesitant to support your nomination until we receive meaningful responses to these questions and your assurances on other concerns.”

 

The Trump administration issued an executive order in June revoking the Obama administration’s landmark National Ocean Policy and eliminating the National Ocean Council, regional planning bodies, and other related interagency committees doing important ocean policy and planning work around the country.  The Trump order also created the Ocean Policy Committee, a new interagency planning group led by the CEQ Chair, to oversee the implementation of the administration’s replacement ocean policy and to facilitate coordination among the federal agencies involved.  The senators ask Neumayr to make firm commitments that in this role she will ensure that the Committee sticks to a rigorous and regular schedule, relies upon the best available science, makes its decisions and other resources public, and coordinates and supports the regional ocean partnerships—like New England’s successful Northeast Regional Ocean Council.

 

Neumayr is due for a vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday.

 

Full text of the senators’ letter is below.  A PDF copy is available here.

 

 

 

Dear Ms. Neumayr:

 

Following your nomination hearing in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, we asked you several questions for the record concerning the President’s national ocean policy and how you will direct the implementation of this work.  While we welcomed your general commitment to work with us and other members of the Senate Oceans Caucus on ocean data and monitoring and marine debris issues, your answers to other questions failed to provide sufficient detail about your view of this administration’s executive order on ocean policy and how you will implement it.  Though we are eager to find opportunities to work together if you are confirmed as CEQ Chair, we are hesitant to support your nomination until we receive meaningful responses to these questions and your assurances on other concerns.

 

As you know, on June 19, 2018, the President’s Executive Order revoked the National Ocean Policy outlined in EO 13547, consequentially eliminating the National Ocean Council, Regional Planning Bodies, and other related interagency committees.  It also established a new interagency coordinating body, the Ocean Policy Committee (OPC), which is co-chaired by the Chair of the CEQ and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  The OPC’s overarching responsibility is to “implement the policy” and “ensure appropriate coordination by federal agencies on ocean-related matters.”  On June 28, 2018, you and Deputy Chief of Staff and Assistant Director of OSTP Ted Wackler sent a memorandum to the federal departments and agencies that sit on the OPC establishing the OPC and two subcommittees and setting a first meeting of the OPC on August 1. 

 

This initial meeting on August 1 is critical in establishing the goals of the OPC and setting expectations for federal cooperation with regional ocean partnerships.  At this meeting and throughout your leadership at the OPC, we request assurances that you will do the following:

 

·                 set a meeting schedule that is more frequent than the meager “at least annually” requirement set forth in the implementation guidance, with at least one meeting a year to be at the principal level;

·                 issue additional guidance documents ensuring that ocean management decisions made by the OPC and participating executive departments and agencies are informed by “the best available ocean-related science and knowledge,” as directed under the June 19 executive order, and that no restrictions will be placed on the use of peer-reviewed science related to climate change and ocean acidification;

·                 establish a subcommittee or other working group under the OPC to lead directed outreach to the ROPs to identify regional priorities, such as data collection, storage, and communication needs, and to delegate action items to OPC members to support these needs;

·                 direct all participating executive departments and agencies to make publicly available all action plans, targets, strategies, reports, and other materials developed by the OPC, including those that address the needs of the ROPs;

·                 issue guidance documents to OPC member agencies that the OPC’s work considers conservation needs, including the consequences of climate change, ocean acidification, and other changing ocean conditions, alongside all discussions of sustainable use, development, and management of the oceans; and

·                 commit to meeting with the members of the House and Senate Oceans Caucuses at least once a year to provide updates on the OPC’s work and learn about the Caucuses’ legislative initiatives. 

 

Our oceans are too valuable of a resource to take for granted or surrender to short-term gains.  The CEQ Chair has an important responsibility through the OPC to ensure future generations inherit clean, healthy oceans.  We hope you take this responsibility seriously. 

 

We look forward to your reply.

 

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