At yesterday’s Ocean Leadership Policy Forum in DC, I had the opportunity to ask Senator Landrieu, (D-La)“What can the ocean community do to prioritize funding for programs like Sea Grant and support for basic research?”
Her response was interesting and articulate, and although she never actually answered my question, Landrieu demonstrated leadership on–and a real commitment to–oceans and the environment. She discussed the significance of funding for basic research and new technology, [ScienceDebate2008 anyone?] and explained our next administration will be much more promising than the current one–no matter who the victor. She emphasized the significance of monetary investment because Congress must prepare for more storms like Katrina and Rita.
The senator went on to talk about finding balance between the needs of the environment with multiple human uses. She spoke about her policy to provide excess revenue to coastal states from drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)* [and what’s anticipated in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)] and believes ‘we can drill safely‘ explaining ‘more oil that seeps naturally from the floor of the ocean than from the oil rigs.’ (I’m not sure I completely agree on safety, but that’s a topic for another post).
So while Senator Landrieu never addressed my actual question on how to most effectively influence Congress toward prioritizing our issues, she succeeded in making a strong case for government support of science and technology and demonstrated an informed understanding of why increased funding is so critical. I want to praise her for her willingness to be engaged with the science community and taking time out of a very busy schedule to speak with us and answer questions. Senator Landrieu showed real environmental leadership yesterday and I left satisfied and impressed.
* [It’s worth pointing out that my old boss, Senator Nelson (D-Fl), has worked consistently to ‘keep offshore drilling away from Florida’s coast in order to protect the state’s tourism-driven economy, its unique environment and the country’s vital military testing and training areas in the Gulf of Mexico.’ When I was there in 2006, he blocked Senate OCS drilling legislation until it provided adequate protections for the state.]