Replacing virtually all fisheries disaster relief for Massachusetts and seven other states in the Senate's Hurricane Sandy supplemental spending bill, Republican House Rules Committee amendments feature $261 million for two highly controversial programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration unaffected by the superstorm.
One line item in the two amendment package calls for spending $150 million for "Regional Ocean Partnership grants," which fund non-government organization involvement in the National Ocean Policy's "marine spacial planning" initiative.
The other item authorizes spending $111 million on a "weather satellite data mitigation gap reserve fund."
The National Ocean Policy and marine spatial planning efforts — described by critics as "ocean zoning" — were created in 2010 by an executive order signed by President Obama; the policy has been bitterly criticized as executive overreach by Rep. Doc Hastings, the Republican chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which has held a series of hearings on the policy.
The hearings emphasized that Congress repeatedly rejected legislation to apply marine spatial planning before it was initiated unilaterally by the White House.
The weather satellite program is troubled by the likelihood that existing satellites will reach the end of their productive lives before NOAA is able to replace them, and has been the subject of auditing criticism by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Commerce.
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