Maine Congressional delegation backed HUGE spending increases for agency threatening lobster industry

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Maine’s congressional delegation has voted to increase funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) by more than $6 billion under Democratic President Joe Biden, according to an analysis by The Maine Wire.

NOAA has come under increased scrutiny in Maine as the result of a series of regulatory actions aimed at limiting lobster fishing in the Gulf of Maine. Maine’s lobstering industry, already pressed by low prices for their catch, has been raising hell at public meetings.

The recent NOAA spending increases were contained in the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill, Biden’s massive infrastructure spending bill, and the so-called “Inflation Reduction” Act. Maine’s entire congressional delegation voted in favor of all of these bills, with the exception of Sen. Susan Collins’ vote against the IRA.

NOAA, which is a part of the federal Commerce Department, says its proposed regulations on lobstering equipment are aimed at saving right whales. But lobster industry advocates say the regulation is so onerous and expensive, many lobstermen will be driven out of business if they try to comply. Further, advocates claim there has never been a single right whale death attributed to Maine lobstering gear, nor has there been a right whale entanglement in nearly 20 years.

According to NOAA whale entanglement data for 2019, there were three entanglements involving U.S.-based lobster gear — two minkes and a humpback — and none of them were fatal.

Maine Sen. Angus King, Rep. Chellie Pingree (CD-1) and Rep. Jared Golden (CD-2) signed off on all three bills, resulting in NOAA’s funding almost doubling over the last 12 months.

Here are the details:

  • Every member of Maine’s congressional delegation voted in favor of the omnibus appropriations act (Consolidate Appropriations Act, 2022) for fiscal year 2022, which became law March 15, 2022. That funding bill granted $4.2 billion to NOAA (See page 59 of the bill). The bill increased NOAA’s funding from the previous year by $447 million.
  • Every member of Maine’s congressional delegation voted in favor of President Joe Biden’s signature infrastructure spending bill, which passed into law Nov. 15, 2021. The price tag for that bill was more than one trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000). Of that, $2.6 billion went to NOAA (See page 927 of the bill).
  • Lastly, every member of Maine’s congressional delegation, with the exception of Republican Sen. Susan Collins, voted in favor of the “Inflation Reduction Act,” which became law on August 16, 2022. That law gave $2.6 billion to NOAA. (See page 211 of the bill)

All told Maine’s congressional delegation has voted to increase NOAA’s budget in the last two years by more than $6 billion, except for Sen. Collins, who has voted to increase its budget by more $3.4 billion.

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation have each voiced some form of opposition to the proposed whale entanglement rule or called upon NOAA to modify it, but none have said they would vote to reduce NOAA’s future funding should it enact the industry-threatening rule.

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