Bill of the Week: Issa floats new name for coastal waters

Bill of the Week highlights a recently introduced piece of legislation that might not make front-page news but otherwise catches the eye.

Title: To designate the exclusive economic zone of the United States as the “Ronald Wilson Reagan Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States.” 

Number: H.R. 6147

Sponsor: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) 

Co-sponsor(s): None

Date introduced: July 18

Summary: The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) consists of coastal waters that extend three to 200 miles off the U.S. mainland. President Reagan created it in a 1983 presidential proclamation. Issa’s bill, which he has introduced twice in past congressional sessions, would designate the EEZ — and anything referencing it — as the Ronald Wilson Reagan Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States. Within the EEZ, the United States has exclusive rights to manage any living or nonliving natural resources, develop energy resources and establish laws.

In a “Dear Colleague” letter, Issa wrote, “President Reagan appreciated that America is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and understood that to remain competitive, and promote strong economic growth, the country must develop them effectively and responsibly.”

Bill’s origin: Issa’s first attempted to name the EEZ after the late president in May 2005; he introduced it again in February 2007 with identical language. Both times the bill was killed without a vote in the House Natural Resources subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans. 

What others say: Emily Woglom, government relations director at the Ocean Conservancy, said President Reagan was a bold protector of our oceans.

“While Ocean Conservancy has not taken an official position on Rep. Issa’s EEZ bill,” she wrote in an email interview, “the legislation does serve as a timely reminder that President Reagan believed in protecting ocean resources in trust for the public, and was not afraid to use Presidential Proclamation to do so.”

She added that critics of President Obama’s National Ocean Policy, an executive order that declares the prosperity of our oceans vital to the well-being of the country, should remember that Reagan — a conservative icon — supported similar policies when he was in office.

“Opponents of the National Ocean Policy should keep this in mind the next time they accuse the Obama administration of wanting to take over the ocean: President Reagan already did,” Woglom wrote.

Extras: The United States isn’t the only country with an EEZ. According to international law, every coastal state has exclusive rights to explore and manage waters beyond or adjacent to their territorial sea.

To suggest a Bill of the Week, email Kris Kitto at kkitto@thehill.com.