Washington Waves: July 16, 2018

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. House easily approved a bill to delay implementation of the “reader rule” for transportation security cards until an ongoing study on the effectiveness of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program and its biometric reader requirement is complete.

Sponsored by Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), the Transportation Worker Identification Credential Accountability Act of 2018 was approved by a voice vote on the suspension calendar, which is reserved for the most noncontroversial measures.

Katko said his bill would provide necessary relief to transportation stakeholders from the opaque and unresponsive rulemaking process of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee recently advanced that chamber’s version of the bill.

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Pruitt Out, Wheeler In

Andrew Wheeler, newly installed acting administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told employees he will continue to press forward with the “tremendous progress” achieved under Scott Pruitt, who departed amid multiple investigations into his leadership and management style.

When President Donald Trump talked to him about taking the agency’s helm, Wheeler said he was asked to focus on three key areas: clean up the air, clean up the water and provide regulatory relief.

“I think we can do all three of those things at the same time,” Wheeler said.

He spoke of the importance of tracking permitting decisions and setting deadlines for enforcement actions.

Although suggesting that press coverage of his private sector employment left the incorrect impression that he worked only for a coal company, Wheeler made it clear he remains proud of the work he did in that industry, especially in the area of shoring up benefits for retired miners.

Key Republicans on Capitol Hill, where Wheeler worked for a number of years, welcomed his appointment as acting administrator, while Democrats wanted to hear how he was going to restore the public’s trust in the EPA.

Disaster Recovery Funds

Members of the waterways industry took a wait-and-see approach to the announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on additional work it plans to accomplish with the nearly $17.4 billion provided for disaster recovery in a budget bill signed into law in February.

Waterways Council Inc. said it “looks forward to working with the Corps to implement disaster recovery funds once specific project allocations are announced.”

A similar comment came from the American Association of Port Authorities, which is interested in seeing how much impact the $17 billion will have on navigation projects.

In its announcement, the Corps explained projects will be funded in two separate categories, identified as Long-Term Disaster Recovery Investment Program and Short-Term Repairs.

R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army-civil works, said the Corps is using the announcement to show its commitment to “moving dirt” and completing studies and construction.

In its announcement, the Corps provided figures on using funds in the construction account to build 60 flood- and storm damage-reduction projects in 16 states and one territory while making some of the funds available to eligible non-federal sponsors; funds in the investigations account to complete flood- and coastal storm damage-reduction studies in 14 states and two territories; and funds in the Mississippi River and Tributaries account to construct levee and channel improvements and repair damage to 10 projects in seven states.

Sabine-Neches LNG Traffic

The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking public comments on a proposal to increase liquefied natural gas (LNG) marine traffic on the Sabine-Neches Waterway in Louisiana.

Sabine Pass LNG L.P. submitted a Letter of Intent and Preliminary Waterway Suitability Assessment on its plans to construct a new berth at its Cameron Parish facility and increase the number of LNG vessels calling at the facility from approximately 400 to 580 annually.

In addition to informing the public about the proposed increase in marine traffic, the Coast Guard also is notifying the public of its preparation of a Letter of Recommendation for issuance to the federal, state or local agency with jurisdiction over the proposed facility.

For additional information, contact Scott Whalen at 409-719-5086.

Users Board To Meet

The Inland Waterways Users Board is scheduled to meet August 30 in Paducah, Ky.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the meeting will begin at 8 a.m. at the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center, 100 Kentucky Ave. in Paducah.

For additional information, contact Mark Pointon at 703-428-6438.

Fuel Sulfur Limits

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has scheduled a workshop on the impact on coastal shipping of the North American Emission Control Area (ECA) fuel sulfur limits for ships.

Scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on July 30, the workshop will be held in Room 1153, William Jefferson Clinton East, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20460.

EPA said the workshop will engage not only individuals and companies involved in U.S. coastal shipping but also local communities, states and citizens interested in the development of a study on the ECA’s fuel sulfur limits for ships.

“The agency will provide background on the study, describe the proposed analytic methodology, and solicit stakeholder input regarding the selection of transportation routes to be studied and data inputs,” EPA stated.

Those wishing to attend the workshop or seeking additional information should contact Julia MacAllister at 734-214-4131.

BUILD Grant Deadline

 The American Association of Port Authorities issued an alert reminding its members of the July 19 deadline for applying to the U.S. Department of Transportation for a BUILD grant.

AAPA also released a support letter for members to include in their grant applications.

“BUILD is one of the only multimodal discretionary funding accounts that directly benefits port infrastructure,” AAPA stated.

AAPA also pointed out the $1.5 billion Congress provided the BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) program in the fiscal year omnibus appropriations bill passed earlier this year tripled the level of fiscal year 2017 funding provided the TIGER grant program, which was replaced by BUILD.

While speaking at a webinar hosted by AAPA, U.S. Department of Transportation officials repeatedly stressed the importance of meeting deadlines for federal grants, and one even urged applicants to submit dummy applications to ensure their information would work on their official applications later.