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Monday, April 26, 2010

An Overview of USDA Rural Development Programs

Tadlock Cowan
Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural Development

More than 88 programs administered by 16 different federal agencies target rural economic development. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the greatest number of rural development programs and has the highest average of program funds going directly to rural counties (approximately 50%). The Rural Development Policy Act of 1980 designated USDA as the lead federal agency for rural development. The Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agricultural Reorganization Act of 1994 created the Office of the Undersecretary for Rural Development and consolidated the rural development portfolio into four principal agencies responsible for USDA's mission area: the Rural Housing Service, the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, the Rural Utilities Service, and the Office of Community Development. 

Beginning with the FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-161), funding for the three Rural Community Advancement Program (RCAP) accounts is reported under their respective administering agencies, the Rural Housing Service, the Rural Business Service, and the Rural Utilities Service, respectively. 

This report provides an overview of the various programs administered by the four USDA agencies, their authorizing legislation, program objectives, eligibility criteria, and FY2005- FY2010 funding for each program. This report will be updated as new USDA Rural Development programs are implemented or amended. 
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Date of Report: April 9, 2010
Number of Pages: 41
Order Number: RL31837
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS)

Peter Folger
Specialist in Energy and Natural Resources Policy

Carbon capture and sequestration (or storage)—known as CCS—has attracted interest as a measure for mitigating global climate change because large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from fossil fuel use in the United States are potentially available to be captured and stored underground or prevented from reaching the atmosphere. Large, industrial sources of CO2, such as electricity-generating plants, are likely initial candidates for CCS because they are predominantly stationary, single-point sources. Electricity generation contributes over 40% of U.S. CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. 

Congressional interest has grown in CCS as part of legislative strategies to address climate change. On February 13, 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, P.L. 111-5), which included $3.4 billion for projects and programs related to CCS. Of that amount, $1.52 billion would be made available for a competitive solicitation for industrial carbon capture and energy efficiency improvement projects, $1 billion for the renewal of FutureGen, and $800 million for U.S. Department of Energy Clean Coal Power Initiative Round III solicitations, which specifically target coal-based systems that capture and sequester, or reuse, CO2 emissions. The $3.4 billion contained in ARRA greatly exceeds the federal government's cumulative outlays for CCS research and development since 1997. 

The large and rapid influx of funding for industrial-scale CCS projects may accelerate development and deployment of CO2 capture technologies. Currently, U.S. power plants do not capture large volumes of CO2 for CCS, even though technology is available that can potentially remove 80%-95% of CO2 from a point source. This is due, in part, to the absence of either an economic incentive (i.e., a price for captured CO2) or a regulatory requirement to curtail CO2 emissions. In addition, DOE estimates that CCS costs between $100 and $300 per metric ton (2,200 pounds) of carbon emissions avoided using current technologies. Those additional costs mean that power plants with CCS would require more fuel, and costs per kilowatt-hour would be higher than for plants without CCS. 

After CO2 is captured from the source and compressed into a liquid, pipelines or ships would likely convey the captured CO2 to storage sites to be injected underground. Three main types of geological formations are being considered for storing large amounts of CO2 as a liquid: oil and gas reservoirs, deep saline reservoirs, and unmineable coal seams. The deep ocean also has a huge potential to store carbon; however, direct injection of CO2 into the deep ocean is still experimental, and environmental concerns have forestalled planned experiments in the open ocean. Mineral carbonation—reacting minerals with a stream of concentrated CO2 to form a solid carbonate—is well understood, but it also is still an experimental process for storing large quantities of CO2. 

The increase in funding for CCS provided for in ARRA and by other economic incentives may lead to less expensive and more effective technologies for capturing large quantities of CO2. Without a carbon price or a regulatory requirement to cap CO2 emissions, however, it will be difficult to predict or evaluate how the technology would be deployed throughout the U.S. energy sector. By comparison, transporting, injecting, and storing CO2 underground may be less daunting. A large pipeline infrastructure for transporting CO2 could be very costly, however, and considerable uncertainty remains over how large quantities of injected CO2 would be permanently stored underground. To help resolve these uncertainties, DOE has initiated large-scale CO2 injection tests in a variety of geologic reservoirs that are to take place over the next several years.


Date of Report: April 13, 2010
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: RL33801
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Outer Continental Shelf Moratoria on Oil and Gas Development

Curry L. Hagerty
Specialist in Energy and Natural Resources Policy

Moratoria provisions for the outer continental shelf (OCS), enacted as part of the Department of the Interior appropriations over 26 years, prohibited federal spending on oil and gas development in certain locations and for certain activities. These annual congressional moratoria expired on September 30, 2008. While the expiration of the restrictions does not make leasing and drilling permissible in all offshore areas, it is a significant development in conjunction with other changes in offshore leasing activity. The ending of the moratoria signals a shift in policy that may affect other OCS policies as well. 

The chief policy goal in not continuing annual moratoria beyond FY2008 was to increase domestic OCS energy production. Also influential were policies to diversify domestic energy production, including by launching renewable energy programs in the OCS, and the availability of new technology that would allow OCS activity in deeper waters beyond clear jurisdictional boundaries. These developments, taken together, reflect a transformative change in OCS policy alternatives. Their impact during periods of volatility in oil markets and in an exceptionally weak economy focuses congressional attention on federal priorities for OCS development. 

In the past, Congress has addressed OCS oil and gas development by balancing numerous factors, including economic feasibility, environmental risk, technology, and ocean sovereignty. Disagreements tend to arise in each of these four issue areas between those in favor of offshore oil and gas development and those opposed. Positions are sharply divided on national and coastal state goals for OCS activities in former moratorium areas, and in areas in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic where prospective drilling activities or renewable energy projects are permissible. 

Around the world, offshore activities are changing, as is reflected in international offshore policy disagreements that are similar to domestic policy disagreements. Economic opportunity and technological advances are driving the global search for energy sources in deeper ocean waters. These activities may clash with national or international environmental policies. Within the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a number of countries are establishing parameters for offshore activities, including preparing claims for extended continental shelf areas. Although the United States has not ratified UNCLOS, U.S. efforts are underway to address extended continental shelf areas in a manner not inconsistent with the UNCLOS process. 

The expiration of congressional moratoria is part of a series of changes in domestic and international OCS energy development policy. Moratorium policies have impacted federal-state coordination on economic and environmental concerns. As a result of changes in these policies, federal-state coordination and nation-to-nation coordination may emerge as issues for Congress as it addresses economic and environmental challenges in the OCS.


Date of Report: April 7, 2010
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: R41132
Price: $29.95

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Friday, April 16, 2010

The Pigford Case: USDA Settlement of a Discrimination Suit by Black Farmers

Tadlock Cowan
Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural Development

Jody Feder
Legislative Attorney

On April 14, 1999, Federal District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman approved a settlement agreement and consent decree resolving a class action discrimination suit (commonly known as the Pigford case) between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and black farmers. The suit claimed that the agency had discriminated against black farmers on the basis of race and failed to investigate or properly respond to complaints from 1983 to 1997. The deadline for submitting a claim as a class member was September 12, 2000. Many voiced concern over the structure of the settlement agreement, the large number of applicants who filed late, and reported deficiencies in representation by class counsel. A provision in the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246) permitted any claimant in the Pigford decision who had not previously obtained a determination on the merits of a Pigford claim to petition in civil court to obtain such a determination. A maximum of $100 million dollars was also authorized for new claims settlements. 

On February 18, 2010, Attorney General Holder and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack announced a $1.25 billion settlement of these so-called Pigford II claims. The Administration included $1.15 billion in its FY2010 supplemental budget request for settlement costs. An amendment (S.Amdt. 3407) to H.R. 4213, the Tax Extenders Act of 2009, to authorize the funding failed on March 10, 2010. A provision in the settlement permitted the plaintiffs to void the settlement if Congress did not appropriate the $1.15 billion by March 31, 2010. Appropriators did not meet that deadline, although USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack sent letters in March to congressional leaders asking them to appropriate money for the settlement, saying that resolving cases of discrimination is a department priority. Because the settlement is clearly a priority of both the USDA and the White House, plaintiffs are unlikely to exercise their right to void the settlement in the near term. Unlike the original Pigford decision, the Pigford II settlement does not include a suggested settlement amount, although it does provide for higher payments to claimants who go through a more rigorous review process. A moratorium on foreclosures of most claimants' farms will be in place until after claimants have gone through the claims process. Payments to successful claimants may begin in the middle of 2011. 

This report highlights some of the events that led up to the Pigford class action suit and outlines the structure of the original settlement agreement. It also discusses the number of claims reviewed, denied, and awarded, and some of the issues raised by various parties.


Date of Report: April 1 2010
Number of Pages: 10
Order Number: RS20430
Price: $29.95

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Asian Carp and the Great Lakes Region

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Charles V. Stern
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

James E. Nichols
Law Clerk

Four species of non-indigenous Asian carp are expanding their range in U.S. waterways, resulting in a variety of concerns and problems. Two species—bighead and silver carp—are of particular note, based on the perceived degree of environmental concern. Current controversy relates to what measures might be necessary and sufficient to prevent movement of Asian carp from the Mississippi River drainage into the Great Lakes through the Chicago Area Waterway System. Bills have been introduced in the 111th Congress to direct actions to avoid the possibility of carp becoming established in the Great Lakes. 

According to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Asian carp pose a significant threat to commercial and recreational fisheries of the Great Lakes. Asian carp populations could expand rapidly and change the composition of Great Lakes ecosystems. Native species could be harmed because Asian carp are likely to compete with them for food and modify their habitat. It has been widely reported that Great Lakes fisheries generate economic activity of approximately $7 billion annually. Although Asian carp introduction is likely to modify Great Lakes ecosystems and cause harm to fisheries, studies forecasting the extent of potential harm are not available. Therefore, it is not possible to provide estimates of potential changes in the regional economy or economic value (social welfare) by lake, species, or fishery. 

The locks and waterways of the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) have been a focal point for those debating how to prevent Asian carp encroachment on the Great Lakes. The CAWS is the only navigable link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, and many note the potential of these waterways to facilitate invasive species transfers from one basin to the other. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has constructed and is currently operating electrical barriers to prevent fish passage. However, in light of recent tests indicating the potential presence of Asian carp in Lake Michigan, increased federal funding to prevent fish encroachment has been announced by the Obama Administration, and calls to permanently separate the two basins have grown. The potential closure of existing navigation structures in the CAWS and the permanent separation of the basins are currently the most contentious issues related to Asian carp control in the region, and a long-term solution has yet to be decided. 

On January 19, 2010, the Supreme Court refused to order emergency measures sought by the State of Michigan to stop the migration of invasive Asian carp toward Lake Michigan from rivers and a sanitary canal in Illinois. Without comment, the Court refused to issue a preliminary injunction that would have closed waterway locks and required other temporary measures in reaction to the discovery of Asian carp upstream in Illinois rivers. On February 4, 2010, Michigan's Attorney General Mike Cox filed a renewed motion, asking the Supreme Court to reconsider issuing a preliminary injunction for the closure of Chicago-area locks based on new evidence that Asian carp are present in Lake Michigan. Michigan's renewed motion for a preliminary injunction was denied by the Supreme Court on March 22, 2010. 

In the 111th Congress, Section 126 in Title I of P.L. 111-85 directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to implement additional measures to prevent invasive species from bypassing the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal Dispersal Barrier Project and dispersing into the Great Lakes. Other bills have been introduced to list additional Asian carp species as injurious under the Lacey Act (H.R. 48, H.R. 3173, S. 237, S. 1421), and to direct various federal agencies to take specific actions to increase control over and restrict the spread of Asian carp (H.R. 51, H.R. 4472, S. 237, S. 2946).


Date of Report: April 9 2010
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: R41082
Price: $29.95

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): Status and Issues

Megan Stubbs
Analyst in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary program that provides farmers with financial and technical assistance to plan and implement soil and water conservation practices. EQIP is the largest agriculture conservation financial assistance program for working lands. EQIP was first authorized in 1996 and was most recently revised by Section 2501 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246, the 2008 farm bill). It is a mandatory spending program (i.e., not subject to annual appropriations) and is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Funding is currently authorized to grow to $1.75 billion in FY2012. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pasture, non-industrial private forestland, and other land on which resource concerns related to agricultural production could be addressed through an EQIP contract. 

With the 111th Congress facing tighter budget constraints, EQIP could face similar challenges with a potential reduction in mandatory funding levels and a continuing backlog of unfunded applications. A change in income limitations along with a new waiver created in the 2008 farm bill could also raise issues for the program. EQIP will also continue to face challenges in measuring environmental and program accomplishments.


Date of Report: March 29, 2010
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: R40197
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Debt-for-Nature Initiatives and the Tropical Forest Conservation Act: Status and Implementation

Pervaze A. Sheikh
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

In the late 1980s, extensive foreign debt and degraded natural resources in developing nations led to the creation of debt-for-nature initiatives that reduced debt obligations, allowed for debt repayments in local currency as opposed to hard currency, and generated funds for the environment. These initiatives, called debt-for-nature swaps, typically involved restructuring, reducing, or buying a portion of a developing country's outstanding debt, with a percentage of proceeds (in local currency) being used to support conservation programs within the debtor country. Most early transactions involved debt owed to commercial banks and were administered by nongovernmental conservation organizations and referred to as three-party swaps. Since 1987, three-party transactions have generated more than an estimated $140 million in local currency for conservation projects, as a result of the purchase of approximately $170 million in debt (face value) for approximately $49 million. Other debt-for-nature initiatives involved official (public) debt and were administered by creditor governments directly with debtor governments (termed bilateral swaps). 

In the early 1990s, the United States restructured, and in one case sold, debt equivalent to a face value of nearly $1 billion owed by Latin American countries; these transactions were authorized by Congress as part of the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative (EAI), which broadened the scope of debt swaps to include a number of social goals. Nearly $178 million in local currency for environmental, natural resource, health protection, and child development projects within debtor countries was generated from these swaps. The model for debt-for-nature initiatives, outlined in the EAI, was expanded in the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) to include countries around the world with tropical forests. Under this program, debt can be restructured in eligible countries, and funds generated from the transactions are used to support programs to conserve tropical forests within the debtor country. 

Since 1998, $124.8 million has been used under the TFCA to restructure loan agreements in 13 countries (15 transactions), and nearly $218.4 million in local currency will be generated in the next 12-26 years for tropical forest conservation projects. The TFCA is authorized to receive appropriations through FY2007. The TFCA is being considered for reauthorization in the 111th Congress. 

Debt-for-nature transactions are generally viewed as a success by conservation organizations and debtor governments because of the funds generated for conservation efforts. The appeal of debtfor- nature transactions has been tempered in recent years, however, by higher debt prices on secondary markets and lower appropriations. As a result, fewer transactions have taken place. This report provides a description of debt-for-nature transactions and a summary of the Tropical Forest Conservation Act.



Date of Report: March 30, 2010
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: RL31286
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Asian Carp and the Great Lakes Region

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Charles V. Stern
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

James E. Nichols
Law Clerk

Four species of non-indigenous Asian carp are expanding their range in U.S. waterways, resulting in a variety of concerns and problems. Two species—bighead and silver carp—are of particular note, based on the perceived degree of environmental concern. Current controversy relates to what measures might be necessary and sufficient to prevent movement of Asian carp from the Mississippi River drainage into the Great Lakes through the Chicago Area Waterway System. Bills have been introduced in the 111th Congress to direct actions to avoid the possibility of carp becoming established in the Great Lakes. 

According to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Asian carp pose a significant threat to commercial and recreational fisheries of the Great Lakes. Asian carp populations could expand rapidly and change the composition of Great Lakes ecosystems. Native species could be harmed because Asian carp are likely to compete with them for food and modify their habitat. It has been widely reported that Great Lakes fisheries generate economic activity of approximately $7 billion annually. Although Asian carp introduction is likely to modify Great Lakes ecosystems and cause harm to fisheries, studies forecasting the extent of potential harm are not available. Therefore, it is not possible to provide estimates of potential changes in the regional economy or economic value (social welfare) by lake, species, or fishery. 

The locks and waterways of the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) have been a focal point for those debating how to prevent Asian carp encroachment on the Great Lakes. The CAWS is the only navigable link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, and many note the potential of these waterways to facilitate invasive species transfers from one basin to the other. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has constructed and is currently operating electrical barriers to prevent fish passage. However, in light of recent tests indicating the potential presence of Asian carp in Lake Michigan, increased federal funding to prevent fish encroachment has been announced by the Obama Administration, and calls to permanently separate the two basins have grown. The potential closure of existing navigation structures in the CAWS and the permanent separation of the basins remains the most contentious issue related to Asian carp control, and a long-term solution has yet to be decided. 

On January 19, 2010, the Supreme Court refused to order emergency measures sought by the State of Michigan to stop the migration of invasive Asian carp toward Lake Michigan from rivers and a sanitary canal in Illinois. Without comment, the Court refused to issue a preliminary injunction that would have closed waterway locks and required other temporary measures in reaction to the discovery of Asian carp upstream in Illinois rivers. On February 4, 2010, Michigan's Attorney General Mike Cox filed a renewed motion, asking the Supreme Court to reconsider issuing a preliminary injunction for the closure of Chicago-area locks based on new evidence that Asian carp are present in Lake Michigan. Michigan's renewed motion for a preliminary injunction was denied by the Supreme Court on March 22, 2010. 

In the 111th Congress, Section 126 in Title I of P.L. 111-85 directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to implement additional measures to prevent invasive species from bypassing the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal Dispersal Barrier Project and dispersing into the Great Lakes. Other bills have been introduced to list additional Asian carp species as injurious under the Lacey Act (H.R. 48, H.R. 3173, S. 237, S. 1421), and to direct various federal agencies to take specific actions to increase control over and restrict the spread of Asian carp (H.R. 51, H.R. 4472, S. 237, S. 2946).


Date of Report: March 31, 2010
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: R41082
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fish and Wildlife Service: Appropriations and Policy

M. Lynne Corn
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

For Fish and Wildlife Service appropriations in FY2011, the administration requests $1.64 billion, down 0.3% from the FY2010 level of $1.65 billion. Climate change and land acquisition programs would receive notable increases; construction and funds for wetlands, neotropical migratory birds, and selected foreign species would decrease. 

The annual Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill funds agencies and programs in three federal departments, as well as numerous related agencies and bureaus. Among the more controversial agencies represented in the bill is the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), in the Department of the Interior. This report analyzes FY2011 appropriations and gives a brief review of the agency's appropriation enacted for FY2010 (P.L. 111-88). Emphasis is on FWS funding for programs of interest to Congress, now or in recent years. These include the endangered species program, global climate change, wildlife refuges, land acquisition, international conservation, and state and tribal wildlife grants. In addition, related policy issues are also considered in the funding context. Each of the related policy issues is explained in more detail in the report. 

For FY2010, the House passed H.R. 2996, the Interior appropriations bill, containing FWS appropriations, on June 26, 2009 (H.Rept. 111-180). The Senate passed its version of H.R. 2996 on September 24, 2009 (S.Rept. 111-38). The conference report (H.Rept. 111-316) included a Division B, providing continuing appropriations for other federal agencies and programs whose FY2010 appropriations had not yet been passed. The House and Senate both approved the conference report on October 29, 2009; the President signed the bill the following day (P.L. 111- 88).

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Date of Report: April 5, 2010
Number of Pages: 10
Order Number: R41155
Price: $29.95

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Asian Carp and the Great Lakes Region

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Charles V. Stern
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

James E. Nichols
Law Clerk

Four species of non-indigenous Asian carp are invading U.S. waterways, resulting in a variety of concerns and problems. Two species—bighead and silver carp—are of particular concern, based on the perceived degree of potential danger. Current controversy relates to what measures might be necessary and sufficient to prevent movement of Asian carp from the Mississippi River drainage into the Great Lakes through the Chicago Area Waterway System. Bills have been introduced in the 111th Congress to improve control of these species. 

According to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Asian carp are a significant threat to commercial and recreational fisheries of the Great Lakes. Asian carp populations could expand rapidly and change the composition of Great Lakes ecosystems. Native species could be harmed because Asian carp are likely to compete with them for food and modify their habitat. It has been widely reported that Great Lakes fisheries generate economic activity of approximately $7 billion annually. Although Asian carp introduction is likely to modify Great Lakes ecosystems and cause harm to fisheries, studies forecasting the extent of potential harm are not available. Therefore, it is not possible to provide estimates of potential changes in the regional economy or economic value (social welfare) by lake, species, or fishery. 

The locks and waterways of the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) have been a focal point for those debating how to prevent Asian carp encroachment on the Great Lakes. The CAWS is the only navigable link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, and many note the potential of these waterways to facilitate invasive species transfers from one basin to the other. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has constructed and is currently operating electrical barriers to prevent fish passage. However, in light of recent tests indicating the potential presence of Asian carp in the Great Lakes, increased federal funding to prevent fish encroachment has been announced by the Obama Administration, and calls to permanently separate the two basins have grown. The potential closure of existing navigation structures in the CAWS and the permanent separation of the basins remains the most contentious issue related to Asian carp control, and a long-term solution has yet to be decided. 

On December 21, 2009, the State of Michigan filed suit against the State of Illinois, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Michigan has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to order closure of shipping locks near Chicago to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes. On January 19, 2010, the Supreme Court refused to order emergency measures sought by the State of Michigan to stop the migration of invasive Asian carp toward Lake Michigan from rivers and a sanitary canal in Illinois. Without comment, the Court refused to issue a preliminary injunction that would have closed waterway locks and required other temporary measures in reaction to the discovery of Asian carp upstream in Illinois rivers. 

In the 111th Congress, Section 126 in Title I of P.L. 111-85 directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to implement additional measures to prevent aquatic invasive species from bypassing the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal Dispersal Barrier Project and dispersing into the Great Lakes. Other bills have been introduced to list Asian carp species as injurious under the Lacey Act (H.R. 48, H.R. 3173, S. 237, S. 1421), and to direct various federal agencies to take specific actions to increase control over and restrict the spread of Asian carp (H.R. 51, H.R. 4472, S. 237, S. 2946).

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Date of Report: March 24, 2010
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: R41082
Price: $29.95

Document available electronically as a pdf file or in paper form.
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Friday, April 2, 2010

Ocean Commissions: Ocean Policy Review and Outlook

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

In 2003 and 2004, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission made numerous recommendations for changing U.S. ocean policy and management. The 109th Congress reauthorized the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (P.L. 109-479), incorporating provisions recommended by both commissions, and authorized the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act (P.L. 109-449). Several bills encompassing a broad array of cross-cutting concerns such as ocean exploration; ocean and coastal observing systems; federal organization and administrative structure; and ocean and coastal mapping were considered, but not acted on during the 110th Congress. 

Identification of the need for a comprehensive national ocean policy can be traced back to 1966, when a presidential Commission on Marine Science, Engineering, and Resources was established (called the Stratton Commission). In 1969, the commission provided recommendations that led to reorganizing federal ocean programs and establishing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). By the late 1980s, a number of influential voices had concluded that U.S. ocean management remained fragmented and was characterized by a confusing array of laws, regulations, and practices. After repeated attempts, the 106th Congress enacted legislation to establish a U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (P.L. 106-256). Earlier in 2000, the Pew Oceans Commission, an independent group, was established by the Pew Charitable Trusts to conduct a national dialogue on restoring and protecting living marine resources in U.S. waters. 

In June 2003, the Pew Commission released its final report, America's Living Oceans: Charting a Course for Sea Change, outlining a national agenda for protecting and restoring the oceans. In September 2004, the U.S. Commission published, An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century, its final report with 212 recommendations on a coordinated and comprehensive national ocean policy. On December 17, 2004, the Bush Administration submitted to Congress the U.S. Ocean Action Plan, its formal response to the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission established the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative in early 2005 to collaborate on a number of key recommendations of both reports. The Joint Ocean Commission has remained active in advancing these recommendations to Congress and the Administration. 

In June 2009, the Obama Administration established an Ocean Policy Task Force to develop a national ocean policy. On September 10, 2009, the task force released the Interim Report of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, which includes national ocean policy priorities, a governance structure for interagency coordination, and an implementation strategy. On December 9, 2009, the task force released the Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning, which recommends a regional approach to marine spatial planning. 

The 111th Congress is continuing to consider ocean policy and management recommendations of the two commission reports. Comprehensive changes in ocean governance and administrative structure are proposed in the Oceans Conservation, Education, and National Strategy for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 21) and the National Oceans Protection Act of 2009 (S. 858). However, most congressional activity has focused on specific topics. Title XII of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-11) included subtitles that address ocean exploration, ocean and coastal mapping, ocean and coastal integrated observation, ocean acidification research and monitoring, and coastal and estuarine land conservation.


Date of Report: March 19, 2010
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: RL33603
Price: $29.95

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