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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama set a new policy on Monday intended to improve coordination of uses of U.S. coastal waters ranging from recreation to commercial fishing to offshore drilling.
As his administration contends with the BP Plc oil spill, Obama was to sign an executive order creating a single National Ocean Council to make sense of the huge number of rules from different agencies on the use of U.S. coastal waters and the Great Lakes.
The plan, the final recommendation of an Ocean Policy Task Force that Obama established last year, does not set new rules for offshore drilling, commercial or recreational fishing or other uses of U.S. waters.
The new council will include officials from several federal agencies who will set policy goals and coordinate the use of U.S. coastal waters and the Great Lakes.
"We're not, by this framework, changing any of the laws or regulations ...," said Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. "Instead, what we're trying to do, is give some upfront consideration to how to balance and manage competing uses of the oceans."
Environmental groups welcomed the announcement.
"With all of the pain and devastation in the Gulf of Mexico right now, this policy provides welcome good news for America's oceans and those who depend on them," Peter Lehner, executive director of the National Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Trott