Last month, Surfrider activists, environmental partners, and ocean recreation leaders came together in Washington D.C. to meet with federal representatives to encourage protection of our oceans, waves, and beaches. In total, participants visited 107 Senate and House offices to discuss federal legislation related to stopping offshore drilling, funding beach water testing programs, reducing plastic pollution, and strengthening ocean and coastal management. Two representatives from the Surfrider Foundation Los Angeles Chapter joined a team of folks from California to hold meetings at the Capitol. Our chapter reps participated in meetings with California congressional representatives including Congressman Lou Correa, Congressman Jimmy Panetta, and Congresswoman Karen Bass, to provide education and ask for support on various laws affecting the health of our ocean, waves, and beaches. Surfrider’s Federal priorities can be found on the Surfrider webpage, along with information about how to contact your local representatives. While congressional leaders hear about many pieces of legislation every day, our voices do matter, so it’s important for them to understand what’s important to their constituents!
With the January release of the Department of Interior’s draft proposal to expand offshore drilling to 90% of U.S. waters, Surfrider asked California representatives to oppose plans for new offshore drilling (including oil exploration and seismic airgun blasting) in the Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. Not only does offshore drilling present near-certain consequences of yet another catastrophic spill, the exploration and drilling processes alone cause major disruptions to our marine ecosystem, water quality, and contribute significantly to air pollution. We encouraged our state representatives to support legislation prohibiting offshore drilling on the outer continental shelf of the Pacific, including the West Coast Ocean Protection Act (S.31 / H.R. 169). Other bills we advocated for included the Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection Act (S.1263 / H.R. 2158), Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future (OFF Act) (H.R.3671), and the Clean Ocean & Safe Tourism Act (COAST) (S.999 / H.R.2272). We also encouraged our representatives to oppose the SECURE American Energy Act (HRT4239), which would promote new offshore oil and gas development, as well as bills like the Streamlining Environmental Approvals (SEA Act) (H.R. 1333), which weakens protections for marine mammals.
Surfrider advocated for legislation aimed at reducing plastic pollution as well. We voiced our support for the Save our Seas Act (S756, HR2748), and asked representatives to consider cosponsoring the Trash Reduction Act of 2018 (a national ban on single-use plastic bags to be introduced in the House next month). Bans on single-use plastic encourage people to waste less and switch to reusables! Bag bans in municipalities have already proven to be a great success in reducing the use of plastic bags by 60-90%. We hope to see momentum for this legislation at a national level, along with other efforts to reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles and polystyrene foam.
We strongly recommended that our leaders oppose any budget that cuts funding for the EPA and BEACH Grants, which allows states to monitor water quality and alert the public to health risks from contact with waterways. Clean water is a public health concern and our coastal communities cannot afford to lose protections for swimmable, drinkable, and fishable waters.
With rising sea levels and more extreme weather patterns causing beaches to shrink or disappear, we have to act now and act fast to protect our coastlines for the long-term. Surfrider reps asked for support of federal policies that would promote coastal resilience through coordinated planning, coastal restoration, and managed retreat, while discouraging coastal armoring that further erodes the coastline. We also asked for support of common sense reform to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in an effort to discourage continuous rebuilding in extreme-weather impact zones at the expense of taxpayers. We urged congressional reps to support the Strengthening the Resiliency of Our Nation on the Ground (STRONG) Act (H.R. 3724), and oppose any budget that cuts funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The recent budget proposal included cuts to climate and weather prediction programs such as the Sea Grant program, which provides critical coastal and marine research that help communities properly prepare for changing weather patterns. We also encouraged our leaders to defend national monuments and marine sanctuaries. Surfrider opposes any legislative attacks on the Antiquities act and we asked our leaders to do the same.
Our chapter representatives came back inspired after hanging with brilliant activists from all over the country and we encourage you to check out the Surfrider Federal Priorities Page to learn more. Surfrider sends out action alerts that make it really easy for you to contact your representatives. Get to your local Surfrider chapter meeting to connect with like-minded ocean lovers, and don’t forget to make time to get out there and enjoy the beautiful planet we have!
– Tina Segura, Esq.
– Margot Fourqurean, Esq.