Reps. Carbajal and Huffman Unveil Bill to Expand ‘Protecting Blue Whale and Blue Skies’ Program to Entire Pacific Coast

Rep. Salud Carbajal (edhat photo)

The regional Protecting Blue Whale Blue Skies program encourages commercial shipping vessels off California’s coast to reduce speeds, limit potential harm to marine mammals, and lower carbon pollution through voluntary recognition program

[On Thursday], California Congressmen Salud Carbajal (CA-24) and Jared Huffman (CA-02) announced they are introducing legislation to create a new federal program encouraging commercial shipping companies operating off the Pacific coast to reduce speeds of their vessels in order to protect marine life and cut air pollution.

The bill models the new federal program off the regional Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies vessel speed reduction (VSR) program, which recognizes shipping companies that reduce speeds off California’s coast – including shipping lanes within the Greater Santa Barbara Channel Region off Rep. Carbajal’s Central Coast district.

Last year, the program estimated the 33 companies that participated cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45,000 metric tons and lowered their strike mortality risk to whales by more than 50%. The program was launched ten years ago this year.

“California’s coastlines and channels have been made safer and cleaner through a decade of the Protecting Blue Whales Blue Skies program, and it is time long past time to build on this regional success with the resources and recognition of our federal government,” said Rep. Carbajal. “The Blue Whales Blue Skies legislation I’m proposing will give shipping companies up and down the Pacific coast another reason to consider more than their bottom line when determining their vessels’ speeds. And when we consider the success that the regional program has had, especially in recent years, I am confident this bill will help us protect ocean life and our air quality across the West Coast.”

“When ships are barreling through the ocean, not only does it guzzle up fuel and throw out more emissions, it makes it hard for them to avoid collisions with whales – leading to the death of these iconic and endangered species on top of impacts to our climate and communities,” said Rep. Huffman. “California came up with a solution to tackle both of these problems that my friend and former colleague Alan Lowenthal championed locally as well as here in Congress. I’m glad to join Rep. Carbajal in this renewed and expanded legislation that would incentivize shipping companies to reduce their speeds along the entire West Coast, protecting marine mammals and our planet.” 

The Alan S. Lowenthal Blue Whales, Blue Skies Act honors the retired California Congressman who had previously championed legislation to create federal recognition for speed reduction off California’s coastline. The legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today expands on Lowenthal’s advocacy by mandating the creation of a federal program that would cover the eligible recognition area to the entire Western coast of the lower 48 U.S. states.

The bill would create a federal recognition program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with the ten year-old California program serving as the model for the qualifications and the recognition to be provided by NOAA to participating shipping companies.

The bill has the support of Oceana and the Environmental Defense Center (EDC).

“We commend Rep. Carbajal and his co-sponsors for introducing the Alan S. Lowenthal Blue Whales and Blue Skies Act, and applaud Congress for recognizing both the dire threat that vessel strikes pose to marine mammals and the need for reducing emissions and improving air quality. This voluntary program is part of a suite of management measures needed to bring about sweeping reductions in vessel speeds in order to prevent deadly ship strikes for blue whales, humpbacks, and other marine mammals nationwide,” said Susan Murray, Deputy Vice President, Pacific at Oceana.

“The Environmental Defense Center (EDC) and our partners have been working to reduce the impacts of shipping in the Santa Barbara Channel since 2007, when five endangered blue whales were killed by ship strikes,” said EDC Chief Counsel Linda Krop. “The vessel speed reduction program has provided significant benefits to whales and air quality, and this legislation builds on its success by recognizing shipping companies for doing the right thing. This unique partnership between agencies, non-profits, foundations, and the shipping industry should be celebrated, and we commend Representatives Carbajal and Huffman for proposing this legislation.”

The text of the Alan S. Lowenthal Blue Whale Blue Skies Act can be found here.

The regional program is run by a partnership of public and nonprofit entities including the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District, Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and others.

More information on the Blue Whale Blue Skies Program can be found here.

Rep. Salud Carbajal represents California’s 24th Congressional District, encompassing Santa Barbara County and portions of San Luis Obispo County and Ventura County. He is a member of the Agriculture and Armed Services Committees, as well as the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he serves as the top Democrat on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee.

Rep.SaludCarbajal

Written by Rep.SaludCarbajal

Press releases from the office of Rep. Salud Carbajal. He represents California’s 24th Congressional District, encompassing Santa Barbara County and portions of San Luis Obispo County and Ventura County. Learn more at https://carbajal.house.gov/

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