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The House Votes to Extend a Program to Oversee Debris Clean-Up in Oceans

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to extend the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Debris Program, which oversees removal and prevention of plastics in the nation's waterways. According to the NOAA, the program has removed more than 5,500 metric tons of marine debris from the coasts and ocean since 2006.

The renewal comes amid a growing movement to eliminate plastic waste that flows into the ocean and harms marine life. This month, several cities and companies have moved to ban plastic straws in an increasingly public campaign.

The environmental group Ocean Conservancy called the latest bill "a modest but important step forward in addressing the growing, global threat of ocean plastic." Even proponents of the program, who authorized its extension in Congress, acknowledged its limitations; Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) said the $10 million funded annually through the bill was "pathetic."

"We're choking the oceans to death," De Fazio told E&E News. "We need to get a little more serious about this."