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Pingree, Salazar Introduce Bicameral, Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen the Blue Economy and Support Coastal Communities

The Ocean Regional Opportunity and Innovation Act will help the U.S. develop new ocean-based industries and upgrade existing operations to promote economic growth and the sustainable use of our oceans for future generations

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) introduced legislation to strengthen coastal communities and the blue economy of Maine and the U.S. through technological research and development, job training, and cross-sector partnerships. The bipartisan Ocean Regional Opportunity and Innovation (Ocean ROI) Act of 2022, which was introduced in the Senate by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), would direct the Secretary of Commerce to establish “Ocean Innovation Clusters” and provide grants for their establishment, operation, and administration.

“Successful ocean clusters in Europe have made clear that the path to climate-resilient, sustainable coastal economies runs through our oceans, and they are at the center of innovation and entrepreneurship. Now is the time for the federal government to make a strategic investment in our nation’s blue economy through the establishment of regional ocean innovation clusters across the United States,” said Congresswoman Pingree, who is a member of the House Oceans Caucus. “I’m proud to join Senators Murkowski and Cantwell and Congresswoman Salazar in introducing this bicameral and bipartisan legislation. Together, we represent some of the nation’s most pristine and valuable coastline, so we truly understand the impact oceans have on our constituents, our daily life, and our future. With this bill, the U.S. can finally catch up with our friends across the pond and realize the full potential and value of our blue economy.”

“Our oceans are critical to protecting our environment and also provide an enormous opportunity for economic development. I am pleased to co-lead the Ocean Research Opportunity and Innovation Act which will empower maritime hubs like Miami to preserve our natural resources, build out more new technology, and expand the blue economy with ocean innovation clusters,” said Congresswoman Salazar.

“The U.S. is home to a number of burgeoning ocean clusters, including the Alaska Ocean Cluster, which have emerged as critical facilitators of blue economy development. It’s time for the U.S. to catch up with our Arctic friends in Iceland and Norway who have long brought together public, private, and academic stakeholders to create sustainable value in the maritime industry through existing and novel opportunities. Clusters offer members physical workspaces—often including some sort of project incubation space—as well as networking, funding and investment opportunities. By boosting our existing clusters and creating new ones where they don’t exist, we are paving the way for some of Alaska’s most innovative minds to further advance Alaska’s blue economy—a significant and direct investment in our state,” said Senator Murkowski.

“From protecting orcas from vessel noise, to transitioning to a carbon free future for our ports and maritime industry, Washington’s ocean cluster, called Maritime Blue, is working hard to solve complex challenges facing our economy. This bill would build on their success by creating a new grant program to fund ocean innovation clusters and grow Washington’s 30 billion dollar maritime economy,” said Senator Cantwell.

“There has never been a better time to invest in blue economy companies that embrace people, planet and profit as part of one mission,” said Patrick Arnold of the New England Ocean Cluster in Portland, Maine. “This is a great opportunity to accelerate the work being done in each region of the United States to create jobs in our coastal communities while introducing new products that fully utilize the renewable resources our oceans provide.”

Specifically, the Ocean ROI Act would require the Secretary of Commerce, acting through the administrator of the U.S. Economic Development Agency, and in consultation with the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to designate at least one ocean cluster in each of the five NOAA Fisheries regions, Gulf of Mexico region, and the Great Lakes region. The bill would also authorize $50 million for competitive grants for cluster establishment, operation, and administration to support ocean clusters on the federal level.

Pingree, who was elected Chair of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee in January 2021, is a well-known leader for Congressional action on fighting climate change. She has sponsored and cosponsored dozens of bills to fight climate change, including several that are aimed specifically at protecting our oceans and coastline. Click here to learn more about Pingree’s efforts to fight climate change.


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