Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Continuing Resolution Keeps Government Running Until December

Washington, D.C.—President Donald  Trump signed into law a stopgap spending bill to keep federal agencies funded through December 11 and avoid a government shutdown.

With only hours left in fiscal year 2020, the Senate overwhelmingly gave final congressional approval to H.R. 8337.

Passed by a vote of 84 to 10, the continuing resolution also includes a full-year extension of surface transportation and national flooding programs.

Coronavirus Relief

After agreeing on the measure to keep the government funded into December, key officials turned their attention to negotiations on another coronavirus relief bill.

A deal still remained out of reach, but both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the administration’s  lead negotiator, sounded optimistic.

“Secretary Mnuchin and I had an extensive conversation, and we found areas where we are seeking further clarification,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“Our conversation will continue.”

Mnuchin told CNBC that issues such as the Paycheck Protection Program, school funding and direct payments of  impact aid have tremendous bipartisan support.

“I think there is a reasonable compromise here,” he said.

Earlier in the week, Pelosi joined other House Democratic leaders in introducing a scaled-back version of their $3.4 trillion Heroes Act passed months ago.

She said a House vote on that package would “formalize our proffer” to Republicans.

DHS Nomination Advances

President Donald Trump’s pick to become secretary of homeland security is moving quickly through the confirmation process.

The nomination of Chad Wolf, who became acting secretary last year, was advanced by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

DHS includes the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection.

Credential Extension Changes

The Coast Guard posted another round of “significant changes” on the extension of mariner credentials to ensure the continuity of the Maritime Transportation System (MTS) as it continues to evaluate the impact of COVID-19.

Covered by Change 4 to MSIB 08-20 titled COVID-19–Mariner Credentials, those changes include the following:

• Merchant mariner credentials, both national and STCW, that expire between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020, are extended to the earlier of June 30, 2021, or one year from the expiration date of the credential. Statutory authority to extend credentials is limited to one year.

• In light of the recent closures of Regional Examination Centers to the public, approval to test letters and course approval certificates that expire between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020, are extended to October 1, 2021.

“I encourage all mariners, ship owners and operators and providers of Coast Guard-approved training to read MSIB 08-20, Change 4 carefully,” stated Rear Adm. Richard Timme, assistant commandant for Prevention Policy.

For additional information, contact the National Maritime Center by using its online chat system  at www.uscg.mil/nmc, emailing IASKNMC@uscg.mil, or calling 1-888-IASKNMC (472-5662).

Lower Miss Anchorages

The Coast Guard is requesting comments on potential changes to multiple anchorages along the Lower Mississippi River from Mile 12 to Mile 85 AHP.

Pilot associations have requested the potential changes, the Coast Guard said, out of concern the current anchorage grounds are not enough to facilitate the safe anchorage of shallow- and deep-draft vessels.

Comments must reach the Coast Guard by November 30 and may be submitted by using the federal portal at https://www.regulations.gov.

For additional information, contact Lt. Cmdr. Corinne Plummer at 504-365-2375.

DERA Grants

Several ports were listed among expected recipients of more than $73 million in Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grants and funding announced by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

EPA said it also anticipates providing an additional $23.5 million under the DERA 2020 State Grants program.

Recipients included Virginia Port Authority, hybrid shuttle carrier replacement project, $2.3 million; San Diego County Air Pollution Control District, tugboat electrification project, $2 million; Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association Inc., workboat engine replacement and drayage truck replacement program, $1.6 million; Georgia Ports Authority, dray truck rebate replacement program, $1.1 million; The Northeast Seaport Alliance, electric terminal tractor replacement project, $782,482; The Connecticut Maritime Foundation, tugboat engine replacement, $733,743; the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Red Hook terminal tractor replacement, $420,000; Massachusetts Port Authority, Boston Harbor pilot boat engine replacement, $402,266; Leonardo Academy, marine ferry engine replacement project, $80,678.

Vessel Response Plans

The Coast Guard concurred with recommendations that it analyze incident data involving vessel response plans (VRPs) to identify potential improvements to its review process and adopt key program management practices to carrying out its VRP advisory group efforts, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported.

Those recommendations were in a GAO report entitled “Improved Analysis of Vessel Response Plan Use Could Help Mitigate Marine Pollution Risk.”

GAO reported risks in the Coast Guard’s processes have been identified such as relatively small number (71 of more than 3,000 VRPs) of verifications conducted of salvage and marine firefighting response capabilities.

Great Lakes Navigation Regs

The Coast Guard is seeking comments on a proposal to change navigation regulations between the Great Lakes, allowing a vessel to overtake another vessel that has slowed its speed to await berth availability or to make the turn for Rouge River, and the overtaking vessel has so advised the Canadian Coast Guard Marine communications and Traffic Services Centre located in Sarnia, Ontario.

Currently, the regulation only permits vessels to overtake vessels engaged in towing between the west end of Belle Isle and Peche Island Light.

Comments and related materials must reach the Coast Guard by October 29 and may be submitted by using the federal portal at https:// www.regulations.gov.

According to the Coast Guard, the Canadian Coast Guard has modified its traffic rules to reflect this change, and the Lake Carriers Association has endorsed this change. This proposed rule would provide consistency on the river and would apprise the public in a timely manner.

For additional information, contact Tracy Girard at 313-568-9564.