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January 11, 2013

Tierney presses to restore fishing aid

Three Massachusetts congressmen — John Tierney,William Keating and Ed Markey — are prepared to petition the House Rules Committee today to reinstate in the Superstorm Sandy supplemental appropriation bill more than $100 million for fisheries disaster relief stripped out by the Republican leadership.

While cutting the fisheries relief, Republican leadership amendments introduced nearly half a billion in spending on a wide range of programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, much of it unrelated to the super storm or of a non-emergency nature.

For three days, the authors of the amendments — House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky and Rep. Rodney Freilinghuysen of New Jersey — have refused to respond to multiple inquiries into the reasoning behind the decision to give huge sums to NOAA for a variety of purposes while virtually eliminating relief for fishermen in Massachusetts and six other states where socio-economic “disasters” have been recognized by the Commerce Department.

The U.S. imports more than 90 percent of its seafood, with China making the largest contribution to a $10 billion industry trade deficit in a $60 billion domestic fishing industry.

NOAA also failed to respond to inquiries about the Republican alternative to the $60.4 billion Sandy supplemental approved by the Senate before the end of the 112th Congress on Jan. 3.

More than half the $476 million in NOAA spending is for programs unrelated to Hurricane Sandy, and much of the rest would be used for post-Sandy research.

For example, the House Rules Committee has posted a pair of amendments to the Sandy supplemental that reduce fisheries disaster spending authorized by the Senate from $150 to $5 million, but authorizes $50 million for “mapping, charting, geodesy services and marine debris surveys for coastal states affected by Hurricane Sandy.”

”As currently written, the house disaster relief legislation places a greater importance on marine debris than it does on our community, fishery jobs, and fishermen,” state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante of Gloucester said Thursday. “I am deeply disappointed that the U.S. House leaders view our community and our fishermen so poorly.

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