Following the creation of a task force to develop a national ocean policy (E&E News, June 12, 2009), the Obama administration has begun a nationwide tour of town hall-style listening sessions to further develop a framework for managing development and ecosystems in ocean waters.

The task force, led by White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley, aims to set policy on a number of key issues, including oil & gas and renewable energy development, the impacts of development on marine wildlife, river and coastal water pollution, and climate change challenges for coastal communities. The task force is following in the footsteps of two major national ocean commissions that recommended the creation of a national ocean policy five years ago.

President Obama has ordered the task force to develop a set of recommendations for national ocean policy by September 2009. The task force has also been charged with recommending a framework for coastal and marine spatial planning. In an interview with E&E News, Jane Lubchenco, a task force member and head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that the new federal policy will aim to provide “general guidance” to federal agencies on national ocean policy, with the possibility of further laws and regulations to set the policy in motion.