U.S. House adopts Congressman Byrne’s amendment to defund Obama ‘ocean grab’ (Al.com)
The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Bradley Byrne to cut off funding for an executive order issued by President Barack Obama that the congressman contends amounts to an “ocean grab.”
Byrne, R-Fairhope, along with Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, offered the amendment to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2015. The amendment passed on a voice vote.
Byrne voted in the 253-170 majority to pass the entire $34 billion spending bill, which funds the Department of Energy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and provides money for some Interior Department programs and several independent agencies, such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Byrne’s amendment, if it becomes law, would prohibit the government from using federal funds to implement an National Ocean Policy, created by executive order in 2010 and requiring various agencies to work to together to – in Byrne’s words – “zone the ocean.”
Byrne said in a floor speech Thursday that it negatively impacts the use of marine resources and harms the inland economy.
“You’ve heard of a land grab; well this is an ocean grab,” he said.
The amendment was the second time Byrne tried to change the bill as the House debated it this week. On Wednesday, the House rejected his effort to eliminate funding for an alternative energy program that he called wasteful and argued subjected taxpayer funds to risky investments in private businesses.
The National Ocean Council coordinates some two dozen different agencies with the goal of reconciling competing interests, like recreation, offshore energy exploration and fishing. But Byrne said the council has no statutory authority and threatens to harm many of those industries.
“This has the potential to be devastating for coastal communities, such as in my district – a coastal district located on the Gulf of Mexico where the previously mentioned industries play a critical role in our economy,” he said.
Byrne added that the administration has failed to provide detailed spending reports. In addition, he said, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers recently wrote a rule that expands jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act by redefining “navigable waterways.”
Said Byrne: “Essentially, a drop of rain falls on your land could cause the federal government to have jurisdiction over your property under the notion that this drop will eventually wind up in the ocean.”
Byrne said the people and industries most affected by the policy have no representation in the rule-making process. He depicted the policy’s creation as a prime example of Obama’s excessive use of executive order to bypass Congress.
“The president has indicated that he was using his pen and his phone to create policy against the will of Congress, and the National Ocean Policy is a perfect opportunity for him to do so,” he said.
Byrne said states still would be free to protect their own waters.
“In my coastal communities, we do meet together, and the federal government is not a good partner,” he said. “In fact, it is has been a hindrance to our ability to use our waters because there are people in the federal government who, unfortunately, believe that the oceans belong to the government and not to the people.”
As to the bill, itself, Byrne’s spokesman noted that it increases funding for the Army Corps of Engineers by $25 million. Press secretary Seth Morrow said Byrne believes that will have a positive impact on public safety and economic growth.
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