On July 27, 2022, the Senate reached a deal to use the budget reconciliation process to pass legislation that will invest approximately $300 billion in deficit reduction, and $369 billion in energy security and climate change programs, over the next 10 years. However, the agreement also includes measures that undermine the health of our ocean and other important environmental protections. In response, 14 aquariums issued this statement.
As the nation’s leading aquariums, we celebrate the important investments in climate change solutions, coastal and marine habitat resilience, and environmental justice included in the Senate Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. We thank the United States Senate for including these provisions.
Climate change is the greatest threat to the future of our planet, people everywhere, and our life-giving ocean and freshwater systems. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the most important thing we can do for our blue planet, and components of this legislation will help achieve a 40-percent reduction in U.S. emissions by 2030. As such, we urge Congress to pass this legislation.
Despite making historic investments to address the life-threatening impacts of climate change, the Act tethers this progress to massive offshore oil and gas leasing mandates — a major step backward in the nation’s urgently needed transition away from fossil fuels. Our aquariums oppose these provisions and any new offshore oil and gas leasing. Offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling pose unnecessary and unacceptable risks, including spills, to our ocean habitats, fisheries and wildlife, coastal economies, communities that have already been bearing the burden for years, and our national heritage.
We support the significant funding that the Inflation Reduction Act would provide to federal agencies making decisions about major federal actions, such as permitting infrastructure projects or adding protections to public lands. This is vital funding for agencies to better understand how decisions will impact the health of people and the environment and to better address the concerns of all impacted communities about what is happening in the environment around them, which is required by one of our most essential environmental laws, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
We are concerned, however, that the legislative agreement comes with a commitment to “pass comprehensive permitting reform legislation before the end of this year” for energy infrastructure. This poses potential threats to NEPA, and potentially to critical protections provided by the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and other environmental laws. These laws are invaluable tools to safeguard much of what is at the heart of our aquariums’ missions: protecting our ecosystems, wildlife, water, air quality, and the health and livelihoods of people in our communities. Congress must ensure that NEPA and other environmental laws remain intact and strong to continue to serve their fundamental purposes.
Decision makers must leverage the ocean’s natural strengths in the fight against climate change by protecting marine habitats and ocean life, ending offshore drilling, enhancing nature-based coastal resilience, restoring and conserving blue carbon ecosystems, supporting climate-ready fisheries, and reducing the production of fossil fuel-based plastic that quickly becomes plastic pollution. We encourage Congress and the Biden-Harris administration to continue to use all available tools and authorities to achieve these outcomes and meet the U.S. target to achieve a 50-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Our aquariums set an example for others by reducing our carbon footprint, cutting out single-use plastic, encouraging sustainable operating practices, and inspiring hope for a public that wants to be part of the solution. On Earth Day this year, our aquariums, members of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership, announced a joint climate commitment to cut carbon emissions until we’re climate neutral. Our aquariums remain committed to helping Congress and the administration achieve U.S. climate goals.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium
The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk
Monterey Bay Aquarium
National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
Oregon Coast Aquarium
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
South Carolina Aquarium
Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center