Washington Waves
Washington Waves

President Biden Calls On Congress To Approve Federal Gas Tax Holiday

Washington, D.C.—President Joe Biden called on Congress to approve a three-month federal gas tax holiday to offer relief at the pump for Americans. But even leaders of his own party kept their distance from the proposal or came out against it.

Biden also called for states to suspend their own gas taxes, oil companies to pass along the savings to consumers and refineries to boost capacity.

“These actions could help drop the price at the pump by up to $1.00 a gallon or more,” the president said.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the policy at best would blow a $10 billion hole in the Highway Trust Fund that would have to be filled. He also warned gas tax suspensions by states would undermine the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said “we will see where the consensus lies on a path forward for the president’s proposal.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the focus will remain on the manipulation of the oil market by the major companies.

Republicans dismissed Biden’s proposal as a “gimmick.”

In his remarks, Biden also expressed hope a meeting the next day between Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and top officials of refining companies will produce “real ideas and practical steps in the near term.”

“I want to hear from them,” Granholm told reporters later at a White House briefing. “Is there a chink in the supply chain that is preventing some refinery from coming back online? Is there something that’s difficult to acquire? Those are the kinds of questions we’ll be asking.”


Energy And Water Bill

With the fiscal year 2023 appropriations process underway in the House, a subcommittee advanced the Energy and Water Development spending bill to the full House Appropriations Committee.
Approved by a voice vote, the bill provides $56.275 billion, an increase of $3.4 billion above the current fiscal year’s level.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would receive $8.889 billion, an increase of $545 million. Investigations would receive $160 million, an increase of $17 million; construction, $2.475 billion; and operations and maintenance, $5.15 billion.

Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund projects would receive an estimated $2.318 billion in accordance with budgetary adjustments made by the CARES Act and the Water Resources Development Act of 2020.


Ocean Shipping Bill Signed

Farmers have lost an estimated $25 billion in agricultural exports just in the last six months due to ocean shipping problems, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said.

“It is time to get America’s supply chain rolling again,” Duvall said as he introduced President Joe Biden, who signed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act into law at a White House ceremony.

“You are about to sign into law the first significant reform of shipping laws in 24 years.”

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) also applauded the Ocean Shipping Reform Act.

“Most germane to seaports is the availability of tools and incentives to promote fluidity as cargo moves through port facilities,” AAPA stated.


Authorization Restrictions

Commercial navigation traffic can be disrupted when authorizing language for jetties, breakwaters and other coastal navigation structures restrict the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from adapting them to current conditions, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

GAO said lives and communities also can be jeopardized and repair costs increased, especially when the structures involved date back decades.

Noting the length of time reauthorization requests can take, GAO reported that officials suggested allowing the chief of engineers more authority to modify the designs of the structures.

A provision leading to GAO’s report was included in the fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill.


N-MERPAC Meeting

The Office of Merchant Mariner Credentialing is scheduled to host a virtual intersessional meeting June 29-30 of the National Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee (N-MERPAC) subcommittee on the Review of Job Task Analysis to Maritime Surface Ships Mapping (JTA to MASS Mapping).

Set to convene at 10 a.m. EDT, the subcommittee will meet through Microsoft Teams.

N-MERPAC makes recommendations to the secretary of Homeland Security through the commandant of the Coast Guard on matters relating to personnel in the U.S. Merchant Marine including the training, qualifications, certification, documentation and fitness of mariners.

The subcommittee scheduled to meet provides recommendations on the reports of the Job Task Analysis for Merchant Mariner Credential Endorsements (Officers and Ratings).

Anyone not part of the N-MERPAC e-mailing list who would like to attend this subcommittee meeting should contact Megan Johns Henry at megan.c.johns@uscg.mil.


Cybersecurity Risks

The National Maritime Security Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet virtually July 12 on the Coast Guard’s intention to present and issue a task focused on information sharing related to cybersecurity risks that may cause a transportation security incident.

Open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at 1 p.m. EDT.

The number of virtual lines will be limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

To ensure comments are received before the meeting, they should be submitted no later than July 8, preferably via https://regulations.gov.

For additional information on submitting comments by other methods or joining the meeting, contact Ryan Owens at 202-302-6565.


Mariner Working Group

As required by a 2015 law, the Coast Guard is commissioning a merchant mariner working group to review existing and new examination questions for accuracy and availability of examination references.

“We need your expertise. Let your voice be heard,” the National Maritime Center stated, adding requests to participate can be submitted at any time.

“Participation in examination question review working groups is an opportunity to help the National Maritime Center (NMC) and your fellow mariners make long-term improvements to the knowledge examination system.”

Instructions to request participation can be found on the Examinations page of the NMC website.

A schedule for the 2022/2023 sessions also will be posted on the Examinations page.

For additional information, email IASKNMC@uscg.mil, call 1-888-IASKNMC (427-5662) or use the NMC online chat system.