March 01 2013

Surfrider Foundation 2013 Federal Legislative Priorities

by Angela Howe

Surfrider Foundation has a focused, few legislative priorities at the federal level that bubble up from our 84 grassroots Chapters on the ground.  For 2013, our priorities at the national level are Clean Water, Ocean Ecosystem, and our Not the Answer campaign.  We are also monitoring for Rise Above Plastics legislation, which has been more active at the state level, and Coastal Preservation legislation, especially in this current post-Sandy timeframe.  This week Surfrider Foundation staff went to Washington, D.C. to promote our federal priorities on Capitol Hill.

Clean Water

Similar to last year, preventing the federal proposed spending cuts to the BEACH Act (Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health) is a top priority for Surfrider.   Surfrider Foundation helped to usher in the BEACH Act in 2000, which allocates $9.8 million to the 30 coastal states and 5 U.S. territories to run beach water quality monitoring programs and notify the public of beach water quality contamination.  This funding is matched in 15 states by an additional $3.1 million that leverages the federal investment.  However, even though the states are supportive and can add finances, in some instances, to the water quality testing programs, they are by no means able to take over the program 

in full and have relied on the federal government for leadership in promulgating water quality standards and supporting the program.  The $9.8 million is a very small insurance plan for the federal government to support the $82.1 billion coastal tourism and recreation economy driven by our national beaches (based on a 2009 NOAA Coastal Services Report).  Additionally, there is a public health investment: just in Los Angeles and Orange County, California, fecal contamination yields 1.4 million gastrointestinal illnesses per year, accounting for $51 million in public health costs, according to NRDC.

Ocean Ecosystems and Not the Answer

To build healthy ocean ecosystems throughout our national waters, Surfrider Foundation supports the work of Regional Ocean Partnerships, which advance coordinated ocean governance through solicitation of public input and local knowledge of our watersheds to make the best decisions in local, state and regional coastal management.  The Surfrider Foundation is opposed to offshore drilling and seismic exploration in new areas including the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and Alaska.  We support stringent regulations, full financial liability and best technology available where drilling is already occuring.

Rise Above Plastics

Our Rise Above Plastics program, which works to stem the tide of plastic pollution on our beaches and in our waterways, is most active at the local level.  However, we have also seen many marine debris bills pop up in state legislatures this year, such as Extended Producer Responsibilty bills in Rhode Island and California, along with bag ban or fee bills in California, Hawaii, Oregon, New Jersey and Virginia, amongst other activity.  Surfrider Foundaiton is committed to translating our local victories to the state level, and in turn, advancing sound statewide policy to the national level, as well.

Coastal Preservation

Finally, Surfrider Foundaiton is very concerned with climate change and adaptation efforts on our coast, especially in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and with the knowledge that this sort of travesty could affect other parts of the U.S. in years to come.  Currently, the “Coastal State Climate Change Planning Act” (H.R. 764) has been introduced in the House by Representative Lois Capps, which would provide financial and technical assistance to states to establish a coastal climate change adaptation planning and response program. 

For a one-sheet on our 2013 Federal Priorities, click here.  And to find out more about Surfrider Foundation's litigation and legislation programs, check out the Surfrider Legal page.  Of course, to keep track of our 2013 Federal Priorities be sure to tune in to our Coastal Blog frequently.