Oceana strongly objects to the Bush Administration's proposal to rollback the protection of our nation's ocean waters. The Department of Justice and the Department of Defense have recently argued in a lawsuit that federal actions that occur in the nation's U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) - an area that extends from 3 to 200 miles offshore - are exempt from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This 30-year-old landmark law requires federal agencies to consider the possible environmental consequences of their actions and the views of the public before making decisions that significantly affect the environment. Exempting ocean waters from NEPA review and public participation would inflict a devastating blow on crucial efforts to restore ocean health.
The EEZ is an area larger than the continental United States and includes rich ocean habitats that support marine mammals such as whales and seals, fish, sea turtles, and other marine life. The U.S. holds these waters and wildlife in the public trust. Coastal communities, the fishing industry and the public depend upon the good stewardship of these resources.
The American people should have the right to review the impacts of destructive fishing practices, sonar testing, offshore oil and gas leasing, ocean dumping and mining, and other harmful offshore industrial projects to protect the health of the oceans. Projects harmful to the oceans should be considered under the same law that governs decisions about forests, rivers, and terrestrial wildlife.
We call on the Bush Administration to halt this environmental rollback and protect our vital ocean waters, wildlife, habitats, and resources by preserving NEPA review and respecting public involvement in environmental decision-making.