Associated Press photo

Administration floats plan for oceans policy

Plan would include smoother permitting processes, improved oil-spill response capabilities in the Arctic and enhanced climate-change forecasting and assessment.

The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled its strategy for developing a national oceans policy that would include streamlined permitting processes, improved oil-spill response capabilities in the Arctic, and enhanced climate-change forecasting and assessment. The draft implementation plan is the next step in the administration's oceans-policy efforts and follows an executive order from President Obama last summer to create the National Ocean Council and bring together agencies and regulations related to the oceans, coastal areas, and the Great Lakes. Federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be involved, along with regional representatives.

"This action plan will help focus our resources on actions that will enhance the stewardship of coastal and marine resources on which so many communities, small businesses, and American jobs depend," Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said in a statement announcing the plan.

"Water is the lifeblood of our planet," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar added, saying the plan will be a top priority for his department. The plan is open for public comment through Feb. 27. "This will be a win for all involved," Emily Woglom, director of government affairs at the Ocean Conservancy, said in a statement after the plan's release. "Input and engagement from all ocean users is vital for both this plan and future implementation of the National Ocean Policy to foster coordination for a healthier ocean." Though the effort has been cheered by many, Republicans in Congress, including House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., have been critical of the move. Hastings has held a number of hearings on the issue in the past year, questioning whether the plan would result in more bureaucracy and "burdensome" regulations.