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Warren releases ‘Blue New Deal,’ a plan to help ailing oceans

Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren spoke during a town hall meeting Sunday in Charleston, S.C.
Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren spoke during a town hall meeting Sunday in Charleston, S.C. Meg Kinnard/Associated Press/Meg Kinnard via AP

Senator Elizabeth Warren has released an addendum to her vision for a Green New Deal: the Blue New Deal.

The new plan seeks to address how climate change is affecting oceans and other waters, while ensuring a vibrant marine economy, she said.

“While the ocean is severely threatened, it can also be a major part of the climate solution,” she wrote in a nine-page summary of the plan, released Tuesday. “That is why I believe that a Blue New Deal must be an essential part of any Green New Deal.”

The oceans are in crisis, she said, absorbing much of the carbon that humans have pumped into the atmosphere. That has produced rapid warming from the Gulf of Maine to the Sea of Japan, disrupting the migration of species, bleaching coral reefs, raising sea levels, and making the oceans more acidic.

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“As we pursue climate justice, we must not lose sight of the 71 percent of our planet covered by the ocean,” she wrote. “While the ocean is severely threatened, it can also be a major part of the climate solution – from providing new sources of clean energy to supporting a new future of ocean farming.”

Warren’s plan calls for:

■  Expanding marine protected areas.

■  Ending new fossil fuel leases in federal waters and phasing out some existing drilling projects.

■  Accelerating the approval of permits for offshore wind farms and other renewable energy, while refusing to allow aesthetic impacts to justify denying permits for offshore wind projects.

■  Making federal subsidies or tax benefits for those projects contingent on companies paying prevailing wages.

■  Requiring turbines and other equipment for offshore wind farms to be made with iron, steel, and cement from US suppliers.

■  Investing in “regenerative ocean farming,” such as algae and seaweed farms.

■  Electrifying ports to reduce pollution.

Priscilla Brooks, director of ocean conservation at the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation, said she was happy to see a presidential candidate focusing on an issue that few others have.

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“With the ocean getting hotter and more acidic and wildlife facing extinction, the ocean must be a top issue this election season,” she said. “It’s time for bold action to confront the crisis facing our oceans.”

Representatives of the fishing industry were less enthusiastic.

“Not being consulted on this isn’t a good start to the relationship,” said Drew Minkiewicz, an attorney for the Fisheries Survival Fund in Washington, D.C., which represents the scallop industry. “We expected something more well-thought-out from her.”

Annie Hawkins, executive director of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, a coalition of fishing industry associations and companies, said that “any large industrial project in the ocean will have significant impacts to the sustainability of established activities and the marine environment.”

“Fast-tracking such development is incompatible with the diligent environmental review and careful planning required to ensure that we’re making the best use of all of our nation’s renewable ocean resources, which requires balancing all affected interests,” she said.

Warren’s plan also seeks to address the overfishing of species, such as cod. It cites a controversial United Nations report from last year that suggested more than 90 percent of global fish stocks are overfished or fully exploited.

By citing that report, Minkiewicz and others suggested, Warren was “peddling in false narratives.”

They said the report is misleading, because regulators generally aim to have fish stocks exploited as much as possible, so long as fishing remains sustainable.

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But Gib Brogan, fisheries campaign manager at Oceana, another Washington-based advocacy group, thanked Warren for elevating “ocean conservation to its rightful place among global conservation issues.”

“These are serious issues that need serious solutions,” he said.


David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.