Please Comment by Jan 3rd on Coral Task Force Oversight
reefkeeper at earthlink.net
Wed Dec 15 09:55:25 EST 1999
Dear Coral Listers and other Friends of Coral Reefs:
We at ReefKeeper International strongly urge you to weigh in with your comments on how
the US Coral Reef Task Force is proposing to discharge its responsibility to prevent
federal agency activities from degrading coral reef ecosystems. Please send your written
comments before January 3rd to the federal official noted below this message. The text
of the Task Force's proposed "Oversight of Agency Actions Affecting Coral Reef
Protection" can be accessed at http://coralreef.gov.
You'll see from our comments appearing below that we are very concerned that the Task
Force is proposing to take too collegial an approach to what we argue is an enforcement
responsibility on the part of the Task Force. The one real thing that Executive Order
13089 empowers the Task Force to do for actual coral reef protection is to discharge that
enforcement responsibility properly. And the Task Force needs to hear from lots of us to
have that sink in and take hold.
So thanks a lot if you do send in a letter. It could really make a difference.
With many thanks,
2809 Bird Avenue - PMB 162
Miami, FL 33133
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December 14, 1999
United States Coral Reef Task Force
c/o Patricia Kennedy
Office of the Assistant Secretary
for Fish and Wildlife and Parks
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W., Mail Stop 3156
Washington, DC 20240
RE: Comments on "Oversight of Agency Actions Affecting Coral Reef Protection"
Dear Task Force Members:
In response to the notice for public comments by January 3, 2000, ReefKeeper
International respectfully submits the following comments to the draft document
"Oversight of Agency Actions Affecting Coral Reef Protection", proposed for adoption by
the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (Task Force).
Since 1989, ReefKeeper International has operated as a non-profit conservation
organization dedicated exclusively to the protection of coral reefs. We have
participated in Task Force activities since the Task Force was created in June 1998 by
President Clinton's Executive Order 13089.
ReefKeeper International urges the Task Force to adopt stronger agency oversight
measures that fulfill the Task Force's obligation to provide oversight that will protect
and enhance the coral reef resources of the United States. Specifically, we request that
a procedure be developed whereby all Federal agencies are required to have a dedicated
person co-responsible to the Task Force for reviewing agency actions that may affect
coral reefs. The Task Force must assume ultimate responsibility for oversight and be the
final decision on controversial actions. We also request that reporting by Federal
agencies to the Task Force be required on a more frequent basis.
Executive Order 13089
Executive Order 13089, signed by President Clinton on June 11, 1998, established the
U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and its obligations to
"oversee implementation of the policy and Federal agency responsibilities set forth in
this order" (Section 4);
"develop, recommend, and seek or secure implementation of measures necessary to reduce
and mitigate coral reef ecosystem degradation and to restore damaged coral reefs"
Section 2 of the Executive Order states:
"(a) All Federal agencies whose actions may affects U.S. coral reef ecosystems shall ...
(b) utilize their programs and authorities to protect and enhance the conditions of such
ecosystems; and (c) to the extent permitted by law, ensure that any actions they
authorize, fund, or carry out will not degrade the conditions of such ecosystems."
These two sections clearly outline the goals of the Executive Order as well as the
responsibility of the Task Force to oversee the implementation of the Executive Order,
including Section 2's requirement for non-degradation of coral reef ecosystems by any
federal agency actions.
Applicability to All Federal Agencies
Section 2 of Executive Order 13089 applies to all federal agencies, not just agencies
that are members of the Coral Reef Task Force. All Federal agencies must ensure that
actions that they authorize, fund or carry out do not degrade coral reef ecosystems.
Therefore, throughout the draft document, ReefKeeper International requests that
references to requirements for member Federal agencies be changed to all Federal
Agency Implementation Plans
The draft document "Oversight of Agency Actions Affecting Coral Reef Protection" falls
short of fulfilling the Task Force's obligations under Executive Order 13089. While the
proposal requires Task Force member Federal agencies to develop implementation plans, the
member Federal agencies are then virtually free to act without any oversight from the
Task Force, except for an annual report summarizing actions already undertaken.
Non-member agencies are only advised and encouraged on implementation of the Order. This
proposal places the Task Force merely in the role of an observer and/or advisor.
Therefore, ReefKeeper International respectfully requests that all Federal agencies be
required to designate a person who is responsible to the Task Force for reviewing any and
all actions by that agency that may impact coral reefs. Unresolved controversial actions
must be brought to the attention of the Task Force by the designated person from the
Federal agency. Any member of the public may also bring proposed actions to the
attention of the Task Force by the procedures outlined in Section 2 of this document.
Therefore, ReefKeeper International recommends that the language under Item 1. Agency
implementation plans be changed as follows (proposed changes indicated in italics):
1. Agency implementation plans. By June 11, 2000, each Federal agency will provide the
Task Force Co-Chairs with a copy of the Federal agency's Coral Reef Protection
Implementation Plan ("Plan")
b. The name, title and address of the Federal agency's designated contact for inquiries
concerning coral reef protection and for the Federal agency's participation in the Task
Force if the Federal agency is a member of the Task Force.
Add the following after item b:
b2. The name, title and address of the Federal agency's designated person that will
review any and all actions that may impact coral reefs that the Federal agency
authorizes, carries out, or funds.
c. The Task Force Co-Chair will post the Federal agency Implementation Plans on the
Internet at http://coralreef.gov.
Delete item d.
Task Force Oversight
The Executive Order clearly intends that the Task Force be placed in the role of
enforcer, not observer. The Task Force must not only have direct input into actions that
may impact coral reefs but must also enforce the provisions of Section 2 of the Executive
Order to protect and enhance those ecosystems.
If the designated person from any Federal agency or the Task Force determines that a
proposed action will fail to meet the objectives of the Executive Order, then the Task
Force must work with the Federal agency to revise the actions or, if necessary, enforce
the Executive Order by prohibiting the action.
Therefore, ReefKeeper International recommends that a section entitled Task Force
Oversight be added to the draft document with the following text:
Task Force Oversight:
a. The Federal agency's designated person for reviewing projects shall bring to the
attention of the Task Force projects which may adversely impact coral reefs that are
inconsistent with the requirements of Section 2 (a) (a) -(c) of the Order and are not
covered by an exception under Section 2 (b).
b. Members of the public may also bring actions to the attention of the Task Force as
outlined in Section 2 of this document.
c. The Task Force shall review the proposed actions and offer advice and counsel to
facilitate resolution of issues.
d. The Task Force will enforce the provisions of Section 2 of the Order by prohibiting
or modifying proposed actions that are inconsistent with that section of the Order.
e. Agreement by the Task Force that the proposed actions meet the requirements of
Section 2 of the Order shall be required prior to the initiation of that action. The
approval may be granted by the Federal agency's designated person for reviewing projects
or the Task Force as outlined above.
Public Issue Identification
Section 2 of Executive Order 13089 applies to all federal agencies, not just those that
are members of the Task Force. Accordingly, the public response section of the draft
document should reflect this mandate.
Therefore, ReefKeeper International recommends that the language under Item 2. Public
issue identification and response be changed as follows (changes indicated in italics):
a. ... any Member about the actions of any Federal agency will be referred ...
b. Federal agencies whose actions...
ii. Communications with the Task Force will not substitute for public comment through
Federal agency provisions for public comment or public hearing on actions. [delete
remainder of paragraph]
Delete item c.
ReefKeeper International also requests that reporting by Federal agencies be conducted
on a quarterly basis, rather than an annual basis as proposed. This will allow the Task
Force to be kept more up-to-date on actions by the Federal agencies and meet some of its
Therefore, ReefKeeper International recommends that the language under Item 3. Annual
Reports be changed as follows (changes indicated in italics):
In March, June, September, and December each year Federal agencies will present ... and
the public. Federal agencies will provide written ...
Thank you for your consideration, and anticipated support, of our request for a Task
Force review procedure and quarterly Federal agency reporting that will truly ensure that
the intent of Executive Order 13089 to protect coral reef ecosystems is met.
cc: A. Gore, U.S. Vice-President
Task Force members
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