President Trump signed an executive order targeting efforts by states to use a key section of the Clean Water Act to delay major energy infrastructure development, and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) already had one specific example in mind.
“Washington state has hijacked the water quality certification process and blocked Wyoming coal from being exported,” said Barrasso, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
“Workers across the West would benefit from the coal export terminal Washington state has blocked. Washington state’s obstruction is about politics, not water quality.”
When announcing he has reintroduced a bill with similar goals, he went on to accuse East Coast states of doing the same to block natural gas pipeline projects.
“My legislation ensures the water quality certification process is used only to protect America’s water, not further political agendas,” Barrasso said.
Entitled the Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2019, S.1087 would make several key changes to current law concerning the appropriate scope of reviews for water quality certifications and place so-called procedural guardrails on states as they process such requests.
Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) introduced a companion bill in the House.
Under the president’s order, one of two he signed promoting energy infrastructure, the Environmental Protection Agency will modernize “outdated” guidance issued in 2010 that generated uncertainty.
“Many states implement Section 401 of the Clean Water Act faithfully. However, on occasion, inconsistent implementation and outdated guidance and regulations have caused delays in infrastructure projects with significant national benefits,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, questioned the legality of Trump’s action, adding it would undercut states’ authority.
Harbor Maintenance Fund
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, used a hearing on funding the nation’s ports and inland waterways to promote his upcoming legislation to fully utilize the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund on maintaining ports and harbors.
“Let’s do it,” he said after his challenge to the hearing’s witnesses failed to produce any opposition to his goal.
Clearly preaching to the choir on that topic, DeFazio has reason to speak with more confidence since his party now controls the House, unlike previous years when his efforts made it out of the committee only to run into opposition from Republican leadership.
Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), who led the hearing as chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, noted the interest in both the House and Senate for “resolving full utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.”
Napolitano also focused comments on the challenges inland waterways face with aging infrastructure.
As the appropriations cycle continues in Congress, members of the Trump administration take turns going up to Capitol Hill to hear how dismissive leading lawmakers, including Republicans, remain over the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2020.
“This year’s budget proposal is a huge step backwards for our nation’s inland waterways,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, told top U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials.
Alexander singled out specific language in the administration’s budget request that would leave unspent 47 percent of the $105 million available in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, create a new user fee proposed for that fund and eliminate funding for the Kentucky and Chickamauga locks that have been funded for construction for the last five years.
During the subcommittee hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the panel’s ranking member, also made it clear she would not allow such cuts to take place for the Corps.
CBP Port Staffing
The American Association of Port Authorities welcomed a bipartisan bill requiring the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire at least 600 additional officers a year until it meets its staffing needs at U.S. ports.
“CBP is a vital partner for ensuring that freight and passenger facilitation through ports is efficient, safe and secure,” AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle said.
“This bill is a positive step forward in expanding CBP staffing to the necessary and appropriate levels to keep America and our freight transportation moving.”
Since 2001, Nagle said, container volumes have increased by 71 percent, total foreign trade in short tons increased by 37 percent and passenger traffic at U.S. cruise ports increased by 98 percent.
Introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act of 2019 has Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) as its chief co-sponsor.
Their press statement cited an analysis showing a shortage of almost 4,000 CBP officers nationwide.
“Customs and Border Protection officers carry out an essential national security mission by protecting our communities while facilitating the lawful trade and travel that drives our economy,” Peters said.
S. 1004 was assigned to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, where Peters serves as the ranking member.
DERA Reauthorization Advances
A key Senate committee advanced a bill reauthorizing the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, a popular law that helps finance the replacement of older diesel engines with cleaner, American-made technology.
“Year after year, DERA has cost-effectively reduced air pollution and fueled American job creation,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who introduced S.747.
“Boasting $13 of health and economic benefits for every $1 of federal investment, it’s no wonder that DERA enjoys such broad, bipartisan support.”
Carper serves as the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which sent his legislation to the full Senate.
Port Access Study
The Coast Guard announced an additional public meeting to receive oral comments on its Port Access Study of areas offshore of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
With its expanded schedule, three meetings will now begin at 6 p.m. on April 23 at Corless Auditorium (Watkins Laboratory Building), University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography, 215 South Ferry Road, Narragansett, R.I. 0288;, April 25 at Flanagan Hall, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, 101 Academy Drive, Buzzards Bay, Mass. 02532; and April 29 at Inlet Seafood Restaurant, 541 East Lake Drive, Montauk, N.Y. 11954.
Written comments can be submitted until May 28.
For additional information, contact Edward LeBlanc at 401-435-2351.
Certificates Of Documentation
The National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC) continues to experience delays in issuing Certificates of Documentation (COD).
Recognizing the need to minimize the effect on the maritime community, the Coast Guard offered the following guidance for those with an expired COD:
• Vessels engaged on domestic voyages only (Coastwise/Fisheries) may continue to operate domestically on previously issued trade endorsements provided a renewal application has been submitted to the NVDC.
• Vessel owners should be prepared to present evidence to the Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection (OCMI) or the Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance (CG-CVC) that a renewal application was submitted.
• Vessels engaged on international voyage (Registry Endorsement) and subject to Port State Control may request a letter from CG-CVC for continued operation. Requests for a letter confirming vessel registry by the United States should be sent to FlagStateControl@uscg.mil and include objective evidence that a renewal application has been submitted to the NVDC.
• Recreational vessels (Recreational Endorsement) shall not be subject to COD-related enforcement action, provided the vessel owner can present evidence the renewal application was submitted to the NVDC.
• New construction/initial certification (All Trade Endorsements): In accordance with the Marine Safety Manual, Vol. II, an initial COI may be completed before the COD is issued provided the NVDC has received the application for documentation. Vessel representatives should be prepared to present evidence that the application was submitted to the NVDC to the OCMI.
• A list of cognizant OCMI/COTP contacts is available on the Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance webpage.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) expects to issue internally an assessment report on the public-private partnerships it has been entering into since 2013, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
GAO says the CBP’s first assessment is expected in April with annual assessments to follow.
CBP has entered into the public-private partnerships with stakeholders such as port authorities and municipalities that own or manage ports and entities that conduct business through the ports, GAO reported.
Overtime costs of CBP personnel providing services outside normal business hours as well as donations of personal or real property or funding related to land acquisition, design, construction, repair at a CBP Port of Entry may be covered under CBP’s two programs.
The Coast Guard announced conditions of entry will be imposed on vessels arriving from ports in the Republic of Seychelles effective April 12.
“Conditions of entry are intended to protect the United States from vessels arriving from countries that have been found to have deficient anti-terrorism port measures in place,“ the service said in its Federal Register notice.
For additional information, contact Ezekiel Lyons at 202-372-1296.