December 15, 2020

Menendez Delivers Floor Remarks on Enactment of Save Our Seas 2.0 Act

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today delivered remarks on the Senate floor on the enactment of the Save Our Seas (SOS) 2.0 Act, S.1982. Introduced by Ranking Member Menendez along with Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the legislation addresses the present plastic debris crisis threatening coastal economies and harming marine life. SOS 2.0 builds on the success of the Save Our Seas Act, which was signed into law in October 2018. 

“Plastic pollution in our oceans is a truly global problem that literally washes up on New Jersey’s shores, impacting businesses and communities across our state. This calamity is yet another reminder that Americans are directly impacted by the policies and practices of countries around the world,” Senator Menendez said. “As the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I take special pride in the international title of this bipartisan legislation, which formalizes U.S. foreign policy to address this issue, supports USAID’s work to curb ocean plastic, and encourages the U.S. to explore the development of an international agreement to foster cooperation on addressing plastic waste globally.”

Below are Ranking Member Menendez’s full remarks as delivered.

“Madam President. Let me thank Senator Sullivan for his introduction of our efforts here today and to really commend him for working in such bipartisan spirit to drive an important piece of legislation to really address the future of future generations of Alaskans, Rhode Islanders, New Jerseyans, and Americans, as well as other people across the world.

I agree with you, Senator Sullivan, Senator Whitehouse’s name is synonymous with the oceans. His focus on this is singular and his perspective is of the utmost importance.

I want to rise to join my colleagues from Alaska and Rhode Island to celebrate the enactment of the Save Our Seas 2.0, and to thank our colleagues in both the House and the Senate for their votes in support of the most comprehensive piece of legislation to address the growing global environmental threat of plastic waste in our oceans.

I want to thank Representatives Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon and Don Young of Alaska for their commitment and leadership in shepherding this bill through the House.

To my colleagues, Senator Sullivan and Senator Whitehouse, it is a pleasure working with you on these issues. The passion, the knowledge, the persistence you bring to solving the problem of plastic waste in the world’s oceans is incredible and it was essential to our shared success.

Plastic pollution in our oceans is a truly global problem that literally washes up on New Jersey’s shores, impacting businesses and communities across our state. This calamity is yet another reminder that Americans are directly impacted by the policies and practices of countries around the world. Plastic debris in our oceans does not respect international borders. 

The abundance of plastic waste in our oceans requires comprehensive action alongside the fight against climate change. Save Our Seas 2.0 will bolster U.S. leadership and global engagement to combat plastic waste and marine debris, improve plastic waste management, and enhance marine debris response and innovation.

As the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I take special pride in the international title of this bipartisan legislation, which formalizes U.S. foreign policy to address this issue, supports USAID’s work to curb ocean plastic, and encourages the U.S. to explore the development of an international agreement to foster cooperation on addressing plastic waste globally.

I think this legislation could be the catalyst for that.

The Earth’s oceans are a global resource that sustains life everywhere, whether it’s your country, state, or district has coastline or is landlocked. 80 percent of New Jerseyans live in a coastal area, and our economy is heavily dependent on these vibrant communities. Families who depend on our fishing, real estate, hospitality, tourism, and outdoor recreation industries rely upon clean and safe oceans.

These families know that beyond their daily livelihoods, plastic pollution also threatens human health on a global scale. Once in the environment, plastics accumulate in and contaminate both human and animal food chains leading to an array of health risks.

Save Our Seas 2.0 calls on various agencies to research and assess the effects of micro plastics in food supplies and sources of drinking water so that we can better understand the ways plastic is dangerous to humans.

Even at a time when Washington seems more politically divided than ever before, SOS 2.0 represents a significant bipartisan environmental victory that I sincerely hope will serve as a stepping-stone towards more progress to tackle this growing global problem.

There is no single solution to the marine debris crisis. Ocean stewardship is critical to preventing the collapse of marine ecosystems that supports global fisheries that feed billions of people around the world. Addressing plastic waste in the ocean supports economic growth and trade, public health, and safe recreation.

I look forward to building upon the bipartisan support we have achieved with this bill, and working with the next administration on ensuring the dutiful execution of the programs we established in SOS 2.0 and securing appropriations in support of the bill’s goals and objectives.

So, again. Congratulations to my colleagues. I thank them for the work that we’ve done together. I yield the floor to my colleague from Rhode Island.”

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