Protecting U.S. shores – Gov. Whitman, Panetta head effort

The Pew Charitable Trusts will fund a nonpartisan commission led by Gov. Christine Todd Whitman to protect the marine environment off of U.S. shores.

Former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta will serve as vice-chair of the commission, which will hold its first meeting in July. The commission will study issues like pollution, coastal development, and fishing, staff members said.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has agreed to finance the commission with $3.5 million annually for the next two years. Commission members will report their findings to Congress in 2002.

Some New Jersey environmentalists have questioned Whitman’s qualifications to head the conservation effort, citing her controversial decision to allow 300,000 tons of mud to be dumped off the Jersey shore in 1996.

Whitman’s office defended her decision, saying the EPA had determined the mud was “clean.”

The Pew Oceans Commission will be the first national commission to study marine issues since the Stratton Commission produced more than 100 recommendations on marine issues in 1969.

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