For Immediate Release - May 28, 2008

Governor Patrick Signs Law Creating First-in-the-Nation Oceans Management Plan Balancing Preservation, Uses

BOSTON- Wednesday, May 28, 2008- Governor Deval Patrick, with the support of House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray, today signed the Oceans Act of 2008, legislation that will require Massachusetts to develop a first-in-the-nation comprehensive plan to manage development in its state waters, balancing natural resource preservation with traditional and new uses, including renewable energy.

"This legislation will make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to create a comprehensive plan for the management of its ocean waters," said Governor Patrick. "This law will help protect our vital natural resources and balance traditional with new ones, such as renewable energy, that are also important to our future."

Governor Patrick signed the bill at the New England Aquarium.

"This is significant, one-of-a-kind legislation that sets specific guidelines for development projects in our state waters and provides safeguards for the health and preservation of our ocean," Senate President Murray (D-Plymouth) said. "We have well-established laws for the use of our land, and now we will have the necessary framework and process in place for the management of one of the Commonwealth's greatest assets - our ocean. I congratulate Senator Robert O'Leary and the rest of the Senate for initiating this proposal and seeing it through the Legislative process, and I also thank the House of Representatives and the Governor for seeing the merits of this legislation. The Commonwealth will be a better place because of it."

"This legislation will help more effectively manage our most abundant and precious natural resource: our ocean waters," said Speaker DiMasi. "Through this law, Massachusetts will create a framework to balance the competing interests in our oceans, putting in place regulations to govern oceans and creating a new avenue for viable renewable energy production in our Commonwealth. I commend Senate President Murray, Governor Patrick, and Secretary Bowles on their dedication to and collaboration on this legislation."

In 2003, the Pew Commission on Oceans and the US Commission on Ocean Policy issued reports calling for significant reform of state and federal policy on management of ocean waters off the US coast. At the same time, Massachusetts launched an Ocean Management Task Force that similarly targeted state regulation as inadequate to the challenge of balancing competing uses of state waters and resource preservation.

"With this bill, Massachusetts has become a leader in ocean policy in this country," said Leon Panetta, former White House Chief of Staff, chair of the Pew Oceans Commission, and co-chair of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative. "The political leaders in the state really deserve strong recognition for taking the initiative and passing this unprecedented ocean management legislation."

The Oceans Act requires the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to develop a comprehensive ocean management plan, following a scientific and stakeholder process leading to a draft plan by summer of 2009. The legislation sets a deadline of December 31, 2009, for final promulgation of the ocean plan.

Upon final adoption, the ocean plan will be incorporated into the existing coastal zone management plan and enforced through the state's regulatory and permitting processes, including the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and Chapter 91, the state's waterways law.

The new law stipulates:

  • Comprehensive Management of Natural Resources: This bill requires, for the first time in any state, comprehensive science-based planning of the Commonwealth's ocean waters to assure long-term protection and sustainable use of a resource that has been the historical bedrock of Massachusetts industry and culture.
  • Ocean Advisory Commission:The bill creates a 17-member ocean advisory commission to provide advice to the Secretary as the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs develops the plan. The commission is comprised of 17 members, including state representatives, state senators, 3 agency heads, 1 representative of a commercial fishing organization; 1 representative of an environmental organization; 1 representative who has expertise in the development of offshore renewable energy; and 1 representative each from the Cape Cod Commission, the Martha's Vineyard Commission, the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and the Southeast Regional Planning and Economic Development District. The Governor appoints the eight nongovernmental seats.
  • Ocean Science Advisory Council:The Secretary will also receive assistance from an ocean science advisory council, comprised of nine scientists who have expertise in marine sciences and data management.
  • DMF Jurisdiction: The jurisdiction of the division of marine fisheries is not altered by the ocean plan - the legislation is explicit in stating that the oceans plan is not intended to alter fisheries policy.
  • Appropriately Scaled Renewables: The bill amends section 15 of the Ocean Sanctuaries Act to allow for the siting of "appropriate scale" offshore renewable energy facilities in state waters except for the Cape Cod Ocean Sanctuary (offshore from the Cape Cod National Seashore on the Outer Cape) provided that the facility is consistent with the ocean plan.

The Oceans Bill has been pending in the Legislature since 2004, this year winning approval from the Senate, the House, and the Patrick Administration to become law. The Senate passed a version of the bill in September, and the House approved its version in February. A consensus draft of the bill was enacted by the Senate May 15 and the House May 22.

"The Oceans Act gives Massachusetts an unprecedented opportunity to manage its offshore assets to maximum effect, preserving its irreplaceable resources and making optimal use of those that are renewable," said Secretary Ian Bowles. "When we make best use of our state waters, we will all be better off."