Washington Waves
Washington Waves

States Push Back On Clean Water Act Order

Washington, D.C.—President Donald Trump’s recent executive order targeting states he believes have used the Clean Water Act to delay energy infrastructure projects triggered concern from the nonpartisan National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In a joint statement, the two organizations said action the Environmental Protection Agency is directed to take “could result in a significant constraint on a state’s ability to protect its water quality.”

“The federal government’s role should be to support state efforts to achieve water quality goals as laid out in the Clean Water Act,” they stated.

Yet, they added, the order “seeks to upset the balance of cooperative federalism laid out in Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Section 401 rightly balances state and federal prerogatives and has been faithfully executed for nearly 50 years.”

While expressing support for efforts to streamline federal review processes, grow U.S. jobs and promote domestic energy production, the NGA and the NCSL said “a one-size-fits-all change that limits a state’s protection and management of its water resources is the wrong approach.”

Individual governors also weighed in on their own.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon applauded Trump’s action to modernize guidance on the application of the Clean Water Act.

“The states along the West Coast have abused their authority under section 401 of the Clean Water Act to unfairly discriminate against Wyoming coal,” Gordon said, echoing Sen. John Barrasso, his fellow Wyoming Republican, when he introduced legislation to clarify what is an appropriate review for a water quality certification.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president, was joined by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson in denouncing Trump’s action as an unprecedented assault on every state’s right to protect its water.

“States have full authority under the Clean Water Act to protect our waters and ensure the health and safety of our people,” they stated, vowing to challenge Trump’s move.

Funding Opportunities

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) highlighted funding opportunities at two federal agencies.

An application period for $900 million in BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Deployment) grants was announced by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

AAPA advised its members to read DOT’s additional relevant information in its entirety in order to submit competitive applications by the July 15 deadline. The association also announced it will be convening a webinar with DOT to discuss the program, with details to be provided soon.

The Department of Homeland Security announced a $100 million funding notice for the Port Security Grant Program (PGSP).

One of eight DHS preparedness grant programs totaling more than $1.7 billion covered by the announcement, the PSGP helps protect port infrastructure from terrorism, enhance maritime domain awareness, improve portwide maritime security risk management and maintain maritime security mitigation protocols that support port recovery and resilience capabilities.

AAPA has scheduled a webinar at 2 p.m. EDT April 23 on the application process and made advance registration available on its website.

AAPA noted it had expressed support for boosting PSGP funding to $400 million.

WOTUS Comment Period Closes

Marking yet another key milestone on a two-year-long effort, a 60-day public comment period closed on the Trump administration’s effort to replace the contentious 2015 Waters of the United States rule.

Two lead agencies—the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—“are working to process and review all public comments in a timely manner,” an EPA spokesperson said when asked how long it is expected to take the agencies to go through the hundreds of thousands of comments submitted before the April 15 deadline.

Underscoring just how controversial the administration’s effort remains, attorneys general representing more than half of the 50 states staked out positions on both sides of the issue.

Those against the effort: New York, California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

Those for: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

The National Waterways Conference also submitted comments that focused on the issues of greatest importance to its members along with suggestions to clarify certain aspects of the proposal.

Jones Act

When it comes to the Jones Act, members of the House Appropriations Committee are taking full advantage of having major witnesses before their panel address the importance of the nearly 100-year-old maritime commerce law.

“You know periodically, the Jones Act is always blamed and criticized. And there are attempts to get rid of it,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said when asked by Rep. John Rutherford (R-Fla.) whether she believes the Jones Act is in jeopardy.

Chao referenced issues raised after Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“But the problem with distribution of cargoes was not the problem due to the Jones Act, the vessels or high cost,” she said.

“Rather it was due to the lack of warehouses and devastation of the roads. So, once the cargoes were unloaded in Puerto Rico, they could not be distributed.”

At another subcommittee hearing several days earlier, Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) gave Coast Guard Commandant Karl Schultz an opportunity to explain the importance of the Jones Act to both the national and economic security of the nation.

“Before there’s any meddling with the Jones Act, people should really step back and have an informed conversation on all the puts and takes and the impacts on national security,” Schultz said.

Earlier in March, Palazzo led a group of House members in signing a letter to President Trump expressing strong opposition to waiving the law for Puerto Rico.

Infrastructure Legislation

As the House Democrats observed their 100 days in power along with the bills passed by their chamber, they could not stop talking about one measure they have yet to pass: infrastructure.

“As I have said before, and I’ll say again, the president has said over and over again, he wants to do an infrastructure bill; so do we, and we’re going to,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.

“We’re making progress as to what the parameters of that would be, timewise and financially.”

With the clock ticking on the kind of trillion-dollar package expected to be discussed by the speaker and the president at a possible meeting, the funding of such legislation remains the big unanswered question.

So far, no date has been announced for that meeting.

“The president and speaker did speak recently and have agreed to meet soon to discuss working together on infrastructure,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a written statement.

“The president wants a bipartisan infrastructure package that rebuilds crumbling infrastructure, invests in the projects and industries of tomorrow, and promotes permitting efficiency.”

Boston Security Committee

The Coast Guard is seeking applications for membership in the Boston Area Maritime Security Advisory Committee.

Applications should reach the Captain of the Port Boston, Commander (sx), USCG Sector Boston, 427 Commercial St., Boston, MA 02109 by May 15.

For additional information, contact Ron Catudal at 617- 223-5727.