AltaSea and Partners Generate Political Support for a Sustainable Blue Economy

By Emily Vidovich. Emily has a background in environmental journalism and sustainability and is a member of the George Washington University Class of 2019.

The sustainable blue economy caucus started with a taco lunch in Sacramento that AltaSea CEO Terry Tamminen and founder Jenny Krusoe hosted for legislative staff members. They taught attendees about the job opportunities created by blue economy industries and how legislators can support their growth. Since then, the caucus has created ongoing opportunities for legislative staff to learn about various aspects of the blue economy from industry leaders. AltaSea’s Tamminen has spearheaded this effort, joined by experts from AltaSea tenant companies and partners. 


The caucus model, in which legislators gather to learn about a subject, hear from experts, and refine policy, is part of the legislative process at both the state and federal level. While the California legislature has an established environmental caucus, Tamminen felt that a caucus focused on the ocean was necessary. 

“More than two-thirds of the planet is covered in ocean, so a majority of our sustainability solutions should come from the ocean,” Tamminen explained in an interview.  

With the nearing emissions reduction deadlines for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels–the international target that will limit the most devastating consequences of climate change–Tamminen knew it was time to harness the power of the oceans to save the planet. He felt that this message was particularly relevant in California–the state is known for raising the standard for environmental regulations in the United States, and it manages vast expanses of coastline and coastal waters that house prosperous ocean-based industries. 


As the former secretary of California Environmental Protection Agency, Tamminen believes in the power of policy to drive change. During his time in the Schwarzenegger Administration, he came to understand how the caucus process can inform legislators and, ultimately, aid the development of policy. The caucus process was integral to groundbreaking environmental policies that passed during Tamminen’s tenure, including the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, the Hydrogen Highway Network, and the Million Solar Roofs initiative. 


Now, the goal of the sustainable blue economy caucus is to accelerate ocean industries via effective policy. The caucus’ first legislative initiative–SB 605–is sponsored by AltaSea and authored by Senator Steve Padilla. The bill would require the California Energy Commission to study the potential for wave and tidal energy in California, then report on how the state can facilitate industry growth. The bill passed through both policy committees with bipartisan support. It is expected to go to vote in chambers later this year, and then, hopefully, to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.  


The sustainable blue economy caucus is partly to thank for the bipartisan support the bill has received–it hosted a webinar for legislative staff in which twenty wave and tidal energy companies showcased their technology and job creation potential. For blue economy industries, many of which are largely unknown to both members of the public and politicians, such opportunities for education and visibility are invaluable. 


While the caucus is currently focused on the wave and tidal energy industries, it plans to start providing information sessions about sustainable aquaculture and its scalability as well. The first aquaculture information session is planned for this autumn, with hopes that policy development will be soon to follow. 

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