WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and Brian Mast (R-Fla.) have made a bipartisan call for Congress to fund research on solutions to harmful algae blooms, which are particularly problematic in Florida and can be detrimental to human health, water quality, recreation and tourism, and the broader economy. Earlier this year, two Murphy-led measures on harmful algae blooms were included in a government funding bill passed by the House. The first measure increased funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to study ways to address this urgent issue, while the second provided funding for NOAA to sponsor a much-needed study on the economic impacts of harmful algae blooms, both nationally and in states like Florida. Murphy and Mast have now called on Congress to preserve these provisions when the House and Senate reconcile their respective funding bills before sending a final bill to the President.
“Toxic algae blooms are endangering the health of Floridians, hurting our economy, and contaminating our environment. After fighting to secure much-needed funding to mitigate the health and economic hazards associated with this environmental and economic threat, I’m now urging both the House and Senate to come together to give this issue the serious attention it deserves,” said Murphy. “We need bipartisan solutions to get legislation passed in both chambers and signed by the President, which is why I’m pleased to work with Rep. Mast as we lead this effort in Congress.”
“Harmful algal blooms endanger public health, hurt businesses and decimate our waterways,” Mast said. “While we have made great progress this year to prevent toxic discharges from Lake O through operational change, we absolutely must do more to find long-term solutions to combat harmful algal blooms. This is an issue with bipartisan support, and I’m confident that, working together with Congresswoman Murphy, we can get it done.”
Earlier this year, Murphy successfully secured a provision in H.R. 3055, which funds NOAA and other government agencies, to provide $1.75 million for NOAA to sponsor an independent study on the economic impacts of harmful algae blooms, both nationally and in states like Florida that are especially affected. The last time a similar study was conducted was in 2006, well over a decade ago. Murphy’s measure requires the new study to examine the effects of harmful algae blooms on public health, drinking water, commercial fisheries, property values, and recreation and tourism. The purpose of the study is to increase public awareness about the serious consequences of harmful algae blooms, which will push policymakers at the federal, state and local levels to dedicate more attention and resources to address this problem.
In addition, Murphy and Mast spearheaded a successful amendment to H.R. 3055 to increase by $2 million the total amount of funding that NOAA will dedicate in the coming fiscal year to scientific research on harmful algae blooms, from $10 million to $12 million. The Murphy-Mast measure was supported by Reps. Bill Posey, Darren Soto, and Charlie Crist of Florida, Rep. Mary Kaptur of Ohio, and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon. NOAA would use this funding to sponsor research into ways to address the public health, economic, and environmental consequences of harmful algae blooms.
The full letter sent by the Members to congressional appropriators can be found here and below.
Dear Chairwoman Lowey, Chairman Shelby, Ranking Member Granger, and Vice Chairman Leahy:
When the House of Representatives and the Senate meet to reconcile the differences between their versions of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2020, we respectfully ask you to provide robust funding for NOAA-sponsored research on Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). We further ask that, within the amount appropriated for this purpose, you provide specific funding for NOAA to sponsor an updated study on the economic impacts of HABs nationally and in those states and territories most affected by HABs.
The House version of the bill (H.R. 3055), as approved by the Appropriations Committee, provided about $3.9 billion for NOAA Operations, Research, and Facilities (ORF). Within that amount, $104.5 million was provided for Coastal Science and Assessment, including $20 million for Competitive External Research. According to the accompanying committee report, of that $20 million, at least $10 million is for HABs research. As requested by Congresswoman Murphy, the committee report specifies that at least $1.75 million is for an updated study on the economic impacts of HABs on both the national and state level.
During floor consideration of H.R. 3055, we and five of our colleagues offered a bipartisan amendment to increase NOAA ORF by $2 million, with the additional funding intended for Competitive External Research and specifically for HABs research. The amendment was adopted. See Amendment #5 offered to H.R. 3055 (Reps. Murphy, Mast, Soto, Kaptur, Posey, Bonamici, and Crist).
The Senate-approved version of the bill (Senate Substitute to H.R. 3055) would provide about $3.7 billion for NOAA ORF, $96 million for Coastal Science and Assessment, and $18 million for Competitive External Research. The committee report accompanying the CJS bill specifies that, of the funding provided for Coastal Science and Assessment, up to $5 million shall be used “to accelerate deployment of effective methods of intervention and mitigation to reduce the frequency, severity, and impact of harmful algal bloom events in freshwater systems.”
We appreciate that both the House and Senate versions of the bill recognize the importance of efforts to mitigate HABs, which can adversely affect human health, drinking water, fisheries, and the broader economy. We ask that the final bill provide the highest level of funding feasible for HABs research—including funding for an updated economic impacts study—along the lines of the House-passed bill as amended.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Member of Congress
Brian J. Mast
Member of Congress