Lawmakers Seek Funding For Clean Water Legislation [AUDIO]
Shore legislators from numerous levels of government are pushing for funding and re-authorization of a federal bill that strengthens water testing regulations.
US Senator Frank Lautenberg, Congressman Frank Pallone, and Asbury Park Mayor Ed Johnson spoke on the Asbury Boardwalk Thursday in support of the BEACH Act, which provides grants to states for regular beach water testing. It also sets standards for water quality and requires the public be made aware of the results.
The reauthorization of the BEACH Act, which originally was authored by Lautenberg and Pallone in 2000, also tries to include additional amendments meant to ensure high water quality standards. Lautenberg explains the most notable inclusions are provisions for faster results from tests, as well as funding for states to seek and address water pollution issues.
"Our new bill will streamline warning systems, require faster testing so we can get water safety results in hours instead of days."
Currently the legislation needs 10 million dollars in annual funding, which President Obama has not provided in the federal budget. That means working with the US Senate Appropriations Committee (which Senator Lautenberg is a member of) to obtain the funding.
In addition to the ten million needed to extend the BEACH Act, they will also try and include additional funds in order to implement the new standards.
Pallone noted the importance of implementing some of the proposed additions to the Act, for example, introducing faster turn around times for posting results on water tests.
" Right now, because of the testing techniques, you might not know until twenty four hours after the test takes place whether the ocean quality is safe. Which means people could theoretically be swimming in water that they shouldn't be."
He added the new testing methods will be able to get read outs within six hours.
The first BEACH Act was approved unanimously in bipartisan vote, however Pallone says they have their challenge ahead of them in terms of securing the additional funding they are looking for this time around.
"Some people said are you going to be able to do this?" said the Congressman, "As you know it's tough to get environmental legislation passed in this Congress and in the House. For the most part the Republican leadership opposes it."
The US Senator used the opportunity to make remarks concerning Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney's stance on environmental matters. Saying that "Romney wants to put his 'Mitts' on our shore".
Referencing the former Massachusetts governor stance to allow states to have authority over off shore drilling.
"His idea for jobs perhaps is lots of people cleaning up the disasters that are left behind when there is an accident."
Pallone also referenced Romney; stating the candidate, along with oil companies, and "Radical Republicans" in Congress are trying to drill off shore.
He also referenced past disasters, including the Deepwater Horizon Spill (aka BP Spill).
"We're under assault. This is a real effort, and Romney is epitomizing it of trying to try to open waters off the Atlantic to offshore drilling, and it's a huge mistake. There's not much reserves out there it runs a real risk, because it's deep water drilling, like the BP spill. That would really damage our coast and the shore economy. We simply can't let that happen."
Surfrider President John Weber closed out the press conference and added a more politically neutral message. Saying though there is debate over spending between both parties, initiatives like the BEACH Act work, and should be preserved.
Noting that no matter where you stand politically, "this is money well spent.'