Washington Waves
Washington Waves

DHS Approves Temporary Jones Act Waiver For Puerto Rico

Washington, D.C.—Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the approval of a “temporary and targeted” Jones Act waiver to ensure Puerto Rico has sufficient diesel to address immediate needs following Hurricane Fiona.

“The decision to approve the waiver was made in consultation with the Departments of Transportation, Energy and Defense to assess the justification for the waiver request and based on input from the governor of Puerto Rico and others on the ground supporting recovery efforts,” Mayorkas said.

His announcement went on to describe the Jones Act as “vital to maintaining the strength of the American shipbuilding and maritime industries by requiring all maritime cargo transport between U.S. ports to occur on U.S. flagged vessels.”

When U.S. flagged vessels are not available to meet national defense requirements, the statement added, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may grant a Jones Act waiver if the proposed shipments are in the interest of national defense and after careful evaluation of the issue.

In 2020, Congress eliminated the federal government’s authority to issue long-term comprehensive waivers, except in circumstances where a waiver is required to “address an immediate adverse effect on military operations.”

According to DHS, waivers that do not meet that standard must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

A White House fact sheet said the waiver allows 300,000 gallons of much-needed diesel fuel to be discharged to Puerto Rico.

“The administration continues to urge all petroleum refiners to help ensure Puerto Rico has adequate fuels supplies, and to use Jones Act-compliant vessels whenever possible,” the fact sheet stated.

Earlier news reports focused on one company’s ship full of diesel ready to enter a Puerto Rico port.

Those who welcomed the action included Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“This is a life and death situation,” Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) said in a tweet.

“I encourage the administration to take further steps to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico can fully recover from Hurricane Fiona.”

The American Maritime Partnership (AMP) criticized the waiver.

“Granting of this waiver rewards calculated and predatory behavior that undermines a dedicated American supply chain for Puerto Rico, and it is a harmful precedent that invites similar cynical stunts by foreign oil traders,” AMP President Ku’uhaku Park said.

“This was a public rush to judgment fueled by hearsay, and it weakens the nation and hurts American workers, and the administration should never repeat it.”

Permitting Reform Dropped

The Senate voted to take up a legislative vehicle to keep the government funded until December 16 after a controversial permitting reform proposal was dropped.

By a vote of 72 to 23, H.R. 6833 cleared an initial procedural hurdle and appeared headed for easy approval, barring any objection.

It would then head to the House, which would have until midnight Friday to act and avoid a government shutdown.

In addition to keeping federal agencies funded, the bill provides additional assistance for Ukraine in its battle against Russia, support for communities impacted by disasters and relief from rising energy costs.

Introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the permitting reform proposal faced stout opposition from both Republicans, who had lined up behind their own proposal, and Democrats.

It clearly never had the votes to pass and endangered approval of the temporary continuing resolution.

Both sides expressed an interest to work on that issue in the future.

Container Storage And Transfer

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is requesting comments from across the supply chain, including from the public, on identifying federal and non-federal sites such as inland ports for storage and transfer of cargo containers.

Due by October 26, comments may be submitted by Docket Number DOT–OST–2022–0102 electronically at www.regulations.gov, mail to Docket Management Facility; U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, West Building, Ground Floor (W12–140), Washington, DC 20590–0001, or hand delivery at W12–140, DOT, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, D.C.

DOT is to use the comments to prepare a report required by the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022.

For additional information, contact osra_inlandports@dot.gov or Brandon White at 202-366-4829.