Washington, D.C.—Citing increasing gas prices and their impact on Americans, President Joe Biden used his first State of the Union address to announce the U.S. will release 30 million barrels of oil from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Biden also revealed the U.S. has been working with 30 other countries to release 60 million barrels of oil around the world.
“And we stand ready to do more if necessary, unified with our allies,” the president said.
“These steps will help blunt gas prices here at home.”
Biden also acknowledged that despite bright spots in the nation’s economy such as record job growth and higher wages, too many families are still struggling to keep up with their bills.
“I get it,” he said. “That’s why my top priority is getting prices under control.”
Topping his address to a joint session of Congress and Americans at home with the ongoing crisis of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Biden also spoke of the importance of passing the trillion-dollar Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which he described as the most sweeping investment to rebuild America in history.
Biden announced that during the current year, work will begin on fixing more than 65,000 miles of highway and 1,500 bridges in disrepair.
“We’re done talking about infrastructure weeks. We are going to have an infrastructure decade,” he said.
Marine Highway Funding
The Maritime Administration (MarAd) announced availability of $25 million in funding for the America’s Marine Highway Program (AMHP), which supports the development and expanded use of America’s navigable waterways and the improvement of the nation’s supply chains and movement of goods throughout the country.
MarAd stated the new resources, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, represent the largest single appropriation of funding ever provided to the AMHP.
“America’s waterways are a vital means for getting goods onto our shelves and into our homes,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, adding the investments can help create jobs, reduce delays and strengthen critical supply chains.
Acting MarAd Administrator Lucinda Lessley said the historic funding for the program will expand waterborne transportation options while helping project sponsors increase energy conservation, improve safety, reduce landside infrastructure costs, reduce travel delays caused by congestion and create well-paying maritime jobs.
To be eligible for a grant award, a project must have previously been designated as a Marine Highway Project.
Applications for the grants are due by 5 p.m. EST April 29.
For additional information, contact Timothy Pickering at 202-366-0704.
Drug Testing Change Proposal
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is accepting comments on a proposal to add oral fluid testing to the transportation industry drug testing program to give employers a choice that will help combat cheating on urine drug tests.
DOT said the change also would provide a more economical, less intrusive means of achieving the safety goals of the program.
Comments on the proposal should be submitted by March 30.
To ensure comments are not duplicated, DOT requested submitting by only one of the following means: Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov; mail to Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, West Building Ground Floor Room W12–140, Washington, DC 20590–0001; or deliver by hand at West Building Ground Floor, Room W–12–140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, DC.
For additional information, contact Patrice Kelly at 202-366-3784.
A key House committee advanced by voice vote the bipartisan Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022 that supporters say provides a level of support that enhances the service’s operations and helps it modernize its cutters and shoreside and cyber infrastructure.
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said the bill will help the Coast Guard complete critical missions such as keeping coastal communities safe, maintaining the security of ports and waterways, carrying out critically important drug interdictions and responding to emergencies and disasters.
Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the panel’s ranking member, cited the Coast Guard’s national defense responsibilities.
“Given the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, we need to ensure our armed forces, including the Coast Guard, are prepared and have the assets they need to carry out their missions,” Graves said.
DeFazio also pointed to provisions of his Safer Seas Act advanced by the committee.
“No seafarer should have to tolerate sexual harassment or assault in the maritime industry, and I look forward to the House considering this legislation,” he said.
Two agencies announced the selection of 10 “geographically varied” roundtables on implementing their next Waters of the United States rule.
According to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the roundtables will include participants representing diverse perspectives such as agriculture, conservation, developers and environment justice.
The organizers of the 10 roundtables, which will be virtual, were identified as: Amigos Bravos (Southwest), Arizona Farm Bureau (Southwest), Cahaba Brewing (Southeast), California Farm Bureau (West), Kansas Livestock Association (Midwest), Natural Resources Defense Council (Northeast), National Parks Conservation Association (Midwest), North Carolina Farm Bureau (Southeast), Regenerative Agriculture Foundation (Midwest) and Wyoming County Commissioners Association / Montana Association of Counties / Idaho Association of Counties (West).
The EPA and the Corps anticipate hosting the roundtables virtually over the spring and summer and are initiating engagement with the selected organizers.
The roundtables are expected to be livestreamed for the public.
FMC And DOJ
Attorney General Merrick Garland and Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) Chairman Daniel Maffei announced new steps to strengthen their agencies’ partnership on enforcing antitrust and competition laws and promoting ocean freight transportation competition.
Their announcement is to build on a 2021 Memorandum of Understanding that formalized their working relationship involving the FMC and the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.
Under the partnership, the FMC will receive support of attorneys and economists from the Antitrust Division for enforcement of violations of the Shipping Act and related laws, and the FMC will provide the Antitrust Division with support and maritime industry expertise for the Sherman Act and Clayton Act enforcement actions.
“The Justice Department will continue to aggressively enforce our antitrust laws—no matter the industry, no matter the company, and no matter the individual,” Garland said.
“Competition in the maritime industry is integral to lowering prices, improving quality of service and strengthening supply chain resilience.”