Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Omnibus Budget Bill Includes $8.3 Billion For Corps

Washington, D.C.—The House has approved a massive $1.5 trillion omnibus appropriations measure that provides the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers $8.3 billion for fiscal year 2022, an amount described as the highest-ever level of funding for the agency and an increase of $548 million above fiscal year 2021.

Investigations would receive $143 million; construction would get $2.49 billion; and operation and maintenance would receive $4.57 billion, an increase of $720 million above the fiscal year 2021 amount.

Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund projects would receive an estimated $2.05 billion, an increase of $370 million over the fiscal year 2021 level.

Those funds would be provided in accordance with the budgetary adjustments made by the CARES Act and the Water Resources Development Act of 2020.

The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Program would be provided $500 million for non-federal water infrastructure.

Considered as a divided question and easily adopted by bipartisan votes of 361 to 69 and 260 to 171, H.R. 2471 was sent to the Senate.

That chamber was expected to give final congressional approval before March 11, the day a stopgap measure expired.

Adding to the urgency of sending the omnibus measure to the president’s desk quickly was the emergency funding included for Ukraine.

Still, the House also approved a separate four-day extension of the stopgap measure to keep federal agencies funded and avoid the chance of a government shutdown.

Banning Russian Energy Imports

Hoping to deal another powerful blow to Vladimir Putin’s war machine, President Joe Biden announced a ban on importing Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal into the United States.

“That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at U.S. ports,” Biden said, conceding the move also will cost Americans here at home.

He also promised to do everything he can to minimize what he termed “Putin’s price hike.”

Responding to a question from a reporter, however, Biden conceded he “can’t do much right now” about rising gas prices.

In his announcement, the president also warned oil and gas companies and financial firms that back them not to exercise excessive price increases or pad profits to exploit the situation.

“Russia’s aggression is costing us all, and it’s no time for profiteering or price gouging,” Biden said.

He also dismissed claims by critics that his policies are holding back domestic energy production.

“That’s simply not true,” the president said.

“We’re approaching record levels of oil and gas production in the United States, and we’re on track to set a record of oil production next year.”

Biden pointed to the 9,000 permits companies already have to drill on federal land that are not being used for production.

His critics did not accept the president’s explanation, pointing to actions such as cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline and moratoriums on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands they say have made the U.S. more dependent on Russia and other foreign sources.

One day after Biden’s announcement, the House overwhelmingly voted to write a ban on importing Russian energy products into law.

Passed by a vote of 414 to 17, H.R. 6968 was sent to the Senate.

TSMS Audit Scheme

The Coast Guard Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance (CG-CVC) announced an update to Policy Letter 18-01, CH.1, Guidance on the Audit Scheme for Vessels Using a Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) Option.

Changes include the beginning of the random external vessel audit program upon the first TSMS renewal after July 19 and an equivalent provided to meet the requirements of the random external vessel audit program.

For additional information or questions, contact FlagStateControl@uscg.mil.

Seaway Regulations Update

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (GLS), under agreement with the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) of Canada, is updating the regulations and rules on the condition of vessels, seaway navigation and dangerous cargo.

The changes take effect March 21.

To read documents or comments, go to www.Regulations.gov or the Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12–140, Washington, DC 20590–001.

For additional information, contact Carrie Mann Lavigne at 315-764-3200.

FMC Updates

The Federal Maritime Commission is scheduled to meet March 16 by video conference to receive in open session an update on the impact of COVID-19 on the cruise industry and a staff briefing on ongoing enforcement activities.

Open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at 10 a.m.

It follows by nearly two weeks appearances of FMC Chairman Daniel Maffei and Commissioner Rebecca Dye at a hearing held by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which would boost the FMC regulatory authority.

For additional information, contact William Cody at 202-523-5725.

Boating Safety Committee

The National Boating Safety Advisory Committee and its Subcommittees, which provide advice to the Department of Homeland Security on matters relating to recreational vessels and associated equipment, are scheduled to meet March 28–30 in Annapolis, MD.

Open to the public via a virtual platform, the meetings are set to begin at 1 p.m. EDT on March 28 and at 8 a.m. on March 29 and March 30.

The meetings will be held at the American Boat and Yacht Council, 613 Third St., Suite10, Annapolis, MD 21403, www.abycinc.org.

With attendance limited, preregistration is required for in-person access to the meeting, and for those attending via teleconference.

For preregistration and other information, contact Jeff Decker at 202-372-1507.