S. 1254, Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2014

S. 1254

Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2014

Sponsor
Sen. Bill Nelson

Date
June 9, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
David Smentek

Floor Situation

On Monday, June 9, 2014, the House will consider S. 1254, the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2014, under a suspension of the rules.  S. 1254 was introduced on June 27, 2013 by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and passed in the Senate, as amended, by unanimous consent.  S. 1254 was referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, which ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote.

Bill Summary

S. 1254 amends the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998 to revise membership requirements for the Inter-Agency Task Force on Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia (which will be referred to as “Task Force”) to require they have a representative from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Moreover, it requires the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere to establish, maintain, and review a national harmful algal bloom and hypoxia program, and submit to Congress a comprehensive research plan to address marine and freshwater harmful algal blooms and hypoxia.  This legislation also expands the function of the Task Force to include expediting the interagency review process and promoting the development of new technologies for predicting, monitoring, and mitigating harmful algal bloom and hypoxia conditions.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is directed to have primary responsibility in the administration of the national harmful algal bloom and hypoxia program.

Within the program, this legislation establishes the duties of the Undersecretary to include: 1) maintaining and enhancing baseline monitoring programs established by the program; 2) supporting the Program’s projects; and 3) addressing the research and management needs and the Action Strategy’s priorities.  Furthermore, it requires the Administrator of the EPA to: 1) research the impact of freshwater harmful algal blooms; 2) forecast and monitor event response to harmful algal blooms in lake, rivers, estuaries, and reservoirs; and 3) ensure that activities focus on new approaches to addressing freshwater harmful algal blooms that are not duplicative of existing programs.  The collection and monitoring of observation data under this legislation is required to comply with all data standards and protocols developed pursuant to the Integrated Costal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2009.

In addition, this legislation requires the EPA Administrator to issue a report, within 12 months of enactment, that describes the progress made by activities directed by the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force and carried out of funded by the EPA and any other State and Federal partners toward attainment of the goals of the Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan of 2008.  Moreover, this legislation requires the Task Force to submit, within 18 months of enactment, a report that examines the causes, consequences, and approaches to reduce hypoxia and harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes.  It also requires the Task Force to submit to Congress a plan, based upon such an assessment, for reducing, mitigating, and controlling hypoxia and algal blooms in the Great Lakes.  Finally, this legislation authorizes the appropriation of $20.5 million per year over the 2014-2018 period, below the last authorized level of $30 million, for the related agencies to mitigate the effects of harmful algal blooms and hypoxia.

Background

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are excessive growths of poisonous or toxic algae that occur in both fresh and marine water, and can cause illness or death in humans, pets, wildlife, and food sources.[1]  These outbreaks, referred to as red or brown tides, have cost the U.S. fishery and tourism industries over $1 billion in recent decades.[2]  A number of environmental factors play a role in the development of HABs, including temperature, light, nutrient conditions, and the presence of non-native or invasive species.  The frequency, duration, and types of HABs have increased significantly in recent years along U.S. coastlines and in freshwater and marine habitats.  Hypoxia is an event where excess organic matter decomposes, resulting in the depletion of oxygen in the water.  HABs generally cause Hypoxia, leading to “dead zones” where organisms cannot survive.  HABs and hypoxia threaten industry, tourism, and thousands of jobs.

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[1] http://www.portman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2014/2/portman-bill-to-combat-harmful-algal-blooms-and-hypoxia-passes-senate
[2] Id.

Cost

CBO estimates that implementing this legislation would cost $92 million over the 2014-2018 period and $11 million after 2018, assuming the appropriation of the authorized amounts.[1]

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[1] http://www.cbo.gov/publication/44533

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.