Washington Waves
Washington Waves

House Committee Looking At Jones Act Waivers

Washington, D.C.—Leaders of a key House committee are demanding answers from the Biden administration on Jones Act waivers issued for delivery of fuel by foreign vessels to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Fiona.

“Administrative waivers of the Jones Act are constrained purposefully by Congress to rare cases where such a waiver is ‘necessary in the interest of national defense,’” they stated in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who approved the “targeted and temporary” waivers, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

“Even in those cases where you may consider a waiver based on a national defense determination, you are required to consider other information, including the availability of U.S.-flag vessels to move the cargo in question.”

Dated October 21, the letter was signed by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the panel’s ranking member; Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), and Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), the chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

They focused their “concerns and disappointment” with Mayorkas’ decision to grant a waiver allowing the delivery of diesel that was sourced from the mainland U.S. by British Petroleum Products North America to Puerto Rico on a foreign vessel on September 28.

“We concur with the Maritime Administration that consideration of a waiver while a vessel is already underway is ‘novel and problematic,’” they stated.

“Moreover, the question of availability was not intended to be answered in retrospect; the statute is intended to be a prospective evaluation to give U.S.-flag ships the first opportunity to move the goods, without the need to waive the law. We do not understand how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), either independently or acting through MarAd, made a retroactive determination that no U.S.-flag vessels could have performed the move for which the waiver was granted—and did so on the day the waiver was granted.” 

 The representatives specifically requested answers on (1) how DHS issued the waiver despite not following requirements, (2) the legal justification for performing a retroactive vessel availability assessment, (3) why the shipment was made when reports indicate the island had adequate fuel supplies, (4) if DHS had considered if the waiver was requested for disaster arbitrage purposes, and (5) why the waiver was needed in the interest of national defense. 

Both federal agencies declined to provide a comment, saying they prefer to respond via official channels or directly to the lawmakers.

Users Board To Meet

The Inland Waterways Users Board is scheduled to meet December 1 in Galveston, Texas.

Open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at 9 a.m. CST at the Holiday Inn Resort Galveston — On The Beach, 5002 Seawall Blvd., Galveston, Texas 77551.

The online portion of the meeting can be accessed at https://usace1.webex.com/ meet/ndc.nav, Public Call-in: USA toll free 844-800-2712, USA caller paid/international toll: 1-669-234-1177 access code: 199 117 3596, security code 1234.

The agenda includes the status of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund; funding for navigation for Fiscal Year 2023 and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act; the inland waterways Capital Investment Strategy activities; status of inland waterways major rehabilitation evaluation reports; impact of low water on the waterways; the Illinois Waterway consolidated closures for 2023; and updates on several inland waterways projects.

For additional information, contact Mark Pointon at 703-428-6438 or Mark.Pointon@usace.army.mil. 

MTSNAC Meeting Set

The U.S. Maritime Transportation System National Advisory Committee (MTSNAC) is scheduled to meet November 29-30 to develop recommendations on issues related to the marine transportation system.

 Open to the public, the meetings are set to begin at 9 a.m. EDT on both days at the Department of Transportation Conference Center, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, D.C. 20590.

Requests to attend must be received no later than 5 p.m. EDT on November 21, the same day those requesting to speak must submit a written copy of their remarks.

Requests for accommodations to a disability must be received by November 28.

For additional information, contact Chad Dorsey at 202-997-6205 or MTSNAC@dot.gov.

Maritime Security Committee

The Coast Guard is accepting applications to fill two vacancies on the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee, which advises the homeland security secretary on matters relating to national maritime security, including on enhancing the sharing of information related to cybersecurity risks that may cause a transportation security incident.

According to the Coast Guard, applications will be considered for two positions: maritime labor and state and local governments.

Completed applications must reach the Coast Guard by November 21. They must be emailed to Ryan.F.Owens@uscg.mil with the subject line ‘‘Application for NMSAC.’’

For additional information, contact Ryan Owens at 202-372-1108 or ryan.f.owens@uscg.mil.