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House Committee Advances Energy And Water Bill

Washington, D.C.—The House Appropriations Committee easily advanced its Energy and Water bill for fiscal year 2023 that boosts funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by $545 million.

However, the panel’s vote of 32 to 24 spells partisan trouble for the funding measure. 

Top Republicans announced their opposition to the bill, saying it was based on a funding level that previously passed the House without support from their side.

Differences with the Senate over specific provisions also were predicted.

Other FY 2023 appropriations bills advanced by the committee triggered similar concerns.

Under House rules, Democrats, as the majority party, can push bills through with only votes from their side, but Republicans have the power in the evenly divided Senate to prevent the bills from getting a final vote that would send them to the president to be signed into law.

Democrats promoted the bills by focusing on provisions that traditionally draw bipartisan support such as robust funding for the Corps.

Now headed to a floor vote in the House, the Energy and Water bill provides $56.275 billion, an increase of $3.4 billion over the current fiscal year level.

For fiscal year 2023, the bill provides $8.889 billion for the Corps, an increase of $545 million above the FY 2022 level.

Investigations would receive $160 million, a $17 million boost; construction, $2.475 billion; operation and maintenance, $5.15 billion.

Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund projects would receive an estimated $2.318 billion.

MarAd Reauthorization

A key Senate committee advanced a bill to reauthorize the Maritime Administration (MarAd) for fiscal year 2023.

Approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation by voice vote, S.4357, the bipartisan Maritime Administration Reauthorization Act, now heads to a floor vote in the Senate.

It would authorize $1.6 billion in funding for MarAd, a 6.5 percent decrease due to a 76.2 percent reduction in the National Security Multi-Mission Vessel program. That program’s funding would fall to $75 million.

Funding would be authorized for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at $112.85 million, a 24.6 percent jump; the state maritime academies, $80.7 million, a 58.9 percent increase; and the Tanker Security Program, $120 million, a 100 percent boost. Other programs with steady funding under the bill include the Port Infrastructure Development Program, $750 million; the Maritime Security Program, $318 million; and the Small Shipyard Grant Program, $40 million.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate panel, said the bill also would create a new Maritime Innovation Center to explore cleaner fuels and maritime technology innovation to propel the nation’s maritime industry into the future.

Protections against sexual assault and harassment at sea also would be boosted, Cantwell said.

No-Discharge Zones

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is requesting comments on draft updated guidance for state officials submitting applications to establish vessel sewage no-discharge zones under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

 Intended to clarify and eventually supersede EPA’s existing vessel sewage no-discharge zone guidance, the draft updated guidance explains the information a state must submit in an application to meet the regulatory requirements and provides greater insight into EPA’s process for evaluating applications.

Updates made to the guidance do not purport to impose any new requirements for state applications.

Comments must be received by August 26. They may be submitted via the federal eRulemaking portal at www.regulations.gov (the preferred method), U.S. mail at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Docket Center, Office of Water Docket, Mail Code 28221T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20460 or hand delivery or courier at EPA Docket Center, WJC West Building, Room 3334,1301 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20004.

For additional information, contact Kelsey Watts-FitzGerald at 202-566-0232.

Merchant Marine Committee

The Coast Guard is seeking applications to fill two member vacancies on the National Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee that advises on merchant marine personnel matters, including training, qualifications, certification, documentation and fitness.

Applications should reach the Coast Guard by July 29.

In this solicitation, applications are being sought from U.S. citizens holding active licenses or certificates as a deck officer who currently holds a Merchant Mariner Credential with an endorsement as Master of Towing Vessels and individuals who represent the general public.

For additional information, contact Megan Johns Henry at 202-372-1255.

Energy Meeting

A meeting held by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm with CEOs of major U.S. oil companies was described as “productive” by her side and “constructive” by their side.

No major updates were reported by either side immediately after the session at Granholm’s agency or nearly a week later.

President Biden, who announced the meeting as he was calling on Congress to approve a three-month federal gas-tax holiday, had hoped for “real ideas and practical steps in the new term” to boost supplies and help reduce prices.

Instead, Granholm said the meeting will be part of an ongoing dialogue for more effective collaboration.

Offshore Wind Partnership

The Biden administration launched a new federal-state offshore wind partnership with 11 East Coast governors to accelerate the offshore wind industry.

As its first step, the White House and the governors announced commitments on expanding key elements of the offshore wind supply chain, including port capabilities and workforce development.

The Department of Transportation also announced designation of offshore wind vessels as Vessels of National Interest to facilitate more offshore wind construction.

That designation will make the vessels eligible for financial support through the Title XI Federal Ship Financing Program, giving the application priority for funding.