Washington, D.C.—The Biden administration has proposed a 12.9 percent funding cut for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works program, prompting pushback from an influential Democratic ally.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies, expressed reservations during a hearing held several days before the official release of the administration’s full budget.
“We’re making progress in the request, but it is still $1 billion of decrease from last year’s enacted level,” Kaptur said.
She said she was looking forward to working with the administration to ensure the Corps receives the necessary support to keep communities safe and prosperous.
That reduction in Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget request would bring funding for the civil works program down to $6.8 billion from the roughly $7.8 billion enacted for the current fiscal year.
In his comments before the panel, Jaime Pinkham, acting assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, also focused on the administration’s funding request submitted weeks earlier.
“This funding request is the highest annual budget ever requested for the civil works program,” Pinkham said.
In his statement following the full budget’s release, the investments proposed by the administration were called transformational for the program.
Construction would receive $1.7 billion; operation and maintenance, $2.5 billion; investigations, $105.8 million; Mississippi River and tributaries, $269.6 million; and regulatory program, $204,400.
Of that, $1.6 billion, described as the highest amount ever requested, would come from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, $52 million from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, an estimated $47 million from special recreation user fees and $5 billion from the U.S. Treasury’s General Fund.
Pinkham said the budget includes $3.4 billion for work on inland and coastal navigation projects.
Also included, he said, are seven previously unfunded programs and projects within the investigations account and four within the construction account.
He explained the previously announced American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan also are included.
Key budget takeaways for other agencies:
Maritime Administration, Port Infrastructure Development Program, $230 million; Assistance to Small Shipyards, $20 million; Maritime Security Program, $318 million; Department of Transportation: $1 billion for Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants, formerly known as TIGER and BUILD grants.
Environmental Protection Agency, $60 million to expand availability of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grant program.
Section 401 Revision
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to revise the 2020 Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 Certification Rule, saying it erodes state and tribal authority to protect vital water resources.
The EPA said it also intends to beef up state and tribal authority in this area.
“We have serious water challenges to address as a nation and as EPA administrator, I will not hesitate to correct decisions that weakened the authority of states and tribes to protect their waters,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said.
The EPA’s press release also quoted Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who said the Trump administration’s rule was not only harmful to the environment but corrosive to state, federal and tribal partnerships.
In 2020, the EPA under then-President Trump announced a final rule to speed up construction of energy projects by curbing states’ ability to use the Section 401 certification process to look at issues beyond water quality.
The 2020 rule included a one-year timeline for review and action on a certification request, reaffirmed EPA’s statutory responsibility to provide assistance to any party involved in a Section 401 process and promoted early engagement among project supporters.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and other Republicans applauded the 2020 change.
Barrasso had accused the state of Washington of abusing the certification process to block Wyoming coal from being exported.
The EPA said it will begin a stakeholder engagement process in June to hear perspectives on this topic.
More information will be available at: www.epa.gov/cwa-401.
With another potential deadline only days away, President Joe Biden and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) continued negotiations on a bipartisan infrastructure proposal that could pass Congress.
The White House described their meeting as a “constructive and frank conversation,” and Capito’s office said she “is encouraged that negotiations have continued.”
Biden and Capito agreed to reconnect on June 4.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has been focusing attention on specific legislative action on Capitol Hill expected the week of June 7, when lawmakers are scheduled to begin returning to Washington.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that week should see Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, hold a markup on the American Jobs Plan, the president’s massive infrastructure and jobs proposal.
Psaki described it as “something a lot of members and Democrats in the House are quite excited about.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also used a recent television appearance promoting Biden’s proposal to stress “a clear direction” on the issue will be needed by June 7.
While both sides continue to sound positive about the negotiations, major differences persist about the size, the scope and pay-fors of a potential bipartisan deal.
GMDSS Warnings Service
The Coast Guard issued Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB) 05-21 to provide an overview of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) Worldwide Navigational Warnings Service.
According to the bulletin, ships fitted with a GMDSS Inmarsat-C or Iridium LT-3100S ship earth station will receive international NAVAREA and METAREA warnings as well as alerts from rescue coordination centers.
These satellite terminals also can transmit distress alerts and communicate with rescue coordination centers globally.
For additional information, contact USCG Spectrum Management and Communications Policy Division (CG-672) at HQS-SMB-CG-672@USCG.MIL.