Trump’s Budget Proposal Includes $13 Million For Corpus Christi Channel Project

Although most of the waterways-related items in President Trump’s proposed budget dismayed the towing industry and its allies and are unlikely to survive in Congress, the budget did give one port $13 million worth (out of a total of $60 million requested) of channel dredging funding it had requested from the president in a public letter.

On the day of Trump’s State of the Union address, the Port of Corpus Christi sent the White House a public letter asking for funding for the Corps of Engineers to complete the Corpus Christi Ship Channel Improvement Project (CIP). The letter was written by the port’s CEO, Sean Strawbridge.

When completed, the project would widen the channel to 530 feet and deepen it to 54 feet, allowing very large crude carriers to navigate the channel and carry larger shipments of exported oil and gas to global trading partners.

The port’s letter concluded, “With widespread bipartisan support, we are confident you will find this project the most worthy of funding of all U.S. coastal navigation construction projects in the nation.”

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In an announcement posted to the port’s website after the budget was released, Strawbridge wrote, “This is a historic day for the port and we are honored to have the CIP included in President Trump’s budget. Investing in this infrastructure expansion project is an investment in the U.S. economy and the leadership of American energy. Our challenge now is to ensure that we have an appropriate level of funds to complete this project in a time frame that ensures the competitiveness of American energy.”

The port’s request was helped by a supporting letter signed by people who can command Trump’s attention—the CEOs of six energy companies: Occidental Petroleum Corporation, NuStar Energy L.P.  Buckeye Partners L.P., Howard Energy Partners, Plains All American Pipeline, and Cheniere Energy Inc.

The energy CEOs’ letter specifically urged that the administration ask for $60 million from Congress for the project in this year’s budget request. It notes, “This critical construction project has been authorized by Congress on two separate occasions—the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 and the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014. In addition to the congressional authorizations, the Channel Improvement Project has gone through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ rigorous benefit-to-cost analysis, which concluded [that] this project has national benefits of $2.65 cents for every $1 dollar invested at the 7 percent discount rate.”

The energy companies said that since the U.S. crude oil export ban was lifted in 2015, they have invested nearly $50 billion in industrial projects underway in South Texas that rely on the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, creating tens of thousands of jobs and billions in additional economic output.

The Port of Corpus Christi is the nation’s fourth largest seaport by tonnage and the largest export port for U.S. produced crude oil. It is set to become one of the largest exporters of liquefied natural gas by 2020. Since the first shipment of American crude abroad in 2015, Corpus Christi now exports 61 percent of the 478 million barrels sold by the United States.

In 2017, the port exported more than $6 billion worth of crude oil to U.S. trading partners.