Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Race For House Speaker Remains In Limbo

Washington, D.C.—House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana narrowly won the Republican conference’s nomination for speaker but remained short of the 217 votes needed ultimately to win the gavel.

That left the House paralyzed and unable to act on legislation, including a major energy and water spending bill that stalled after the unprecedented vote to oust Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as speaker.

In a closed-door meeting of the House Republican Conference, Scalise defeated Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio in their race to succeed McCarthy by a reported vote of 113 to 99.

Afterward, enough Republicans revealed they did not plan to support Scalise on the floor, citing reasons ranging from concerns over his current treatment for blood cancer to support for others. That doomed not only a quick victory for Scalise but an opportunity to end uncertainty that some have described as chaos. (After this issue went to press, Scalise withdrew himself for consideration for speaker.)

House Democrats unanimously voted to put forward Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York for speaker.

With two current vacancies in the House, Republicans hold the majority with 221 votes compared to 212 for Democrats.

Chemical Transportation Committee

The National Chemical Transportation Safety Advisory Committee is scheduled to conduct a series of meetings November 28-30 in League City, Texas, on marine transportation of hazardous materials.

In addition to the in-person meeting of the full committee, subcommittee meetings will be available by videoconference for those unable to attend in person.

Open to the public, the subcommittee meetings are set to begin at 9 a.m. CST on November 28 and 29 while the full committee is to meet at 9 a.m. November 30.

They are to be held at INEOS Oligomers USA, 2600 S. Shore Blvd, Suite 400, League City, Texas, 77573.

To ensure comments can be reviewed before the meeting, they should be submitted by November 15, preferably via www.regulations.gov/docket/USCG-2023-0292.

Preregistration is required for both the in-person and videoconference sessions by noon EST, on November 15 with in-person attendance possibly capped due to limited space and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For additional information, to pre-register or request special accommodations, contact Lt. Ethan Beard at 202-372-1419 or Ethan.T.Beard@uscg.mil as soon as possible.

Early Warning System

The Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that $26 million will be invested over four years to support development of a “transformative federal-state-private partnership” to improve early warning for drought, flooding, fire and other natural hazards.

NOAA will partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the pilot program that initially will focus on the five upper Missouri River basin states of Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota and Nebraska. Since 2010, the upper Missouri River basin has experienced extreme hydrological events that were not well-forecasted such as the historic floods of 2011 and 2019 and the flash drought of 2017, the agencies stated.

They added that NOAA also will be supported in its efforts to improve monitoring of soil moisture and snow levels throughout the basin.

Area Contingency Plan

The Coast Guard announced the first major overhaul of Area Contingency Plan (ACP) structure in more than 25 years with the release of a new architecture for ACPs covering the coastal zones of the United States and its territories.

Required by the Clean Water Act, ACPs are viewed as a critical component of the tiered system of planning and response known as the National Response System.

They encompass response planning for oil and hazardous substance incidents at the local (area) level and are managed and approved by the Coast Guard for coastal zones.

The Coast Guard said its overall objective is to modernize coastal ACPs, improve usability and operationalization and attain national consistency in the face of a dynamic risk landscape within the broader Maritime Transportation System.

“This new, standardized construct will better enable industry plan writers of vessel and facility response plans with multiple, diverse operating areas to consistently align with Coast Guard approved ACPs,” the Coast Guard said.

Offshore Renewable Energy

The Coast Guard published the Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) No. 02-23 to provide guidance to Coast Guard program offices, unit commanders and Offshore Renewable Energy Installation (OREI) developers on its roles and responsibilities throughout the Department of Interior’s development of offshore renewable energy on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

“This NVIC identifies information the Coast Guard will use to evaluate and mitigate the potential impacts of OREI leasing, construction and operations on the Marine Transportation System (MTS); navigation safety; vessel traffic; traditional uses of waterways; and Coast Guard missions,” the Coast Guard stated.

“Although still in the early stages in the United States, offshore wind is now recognized globally as one of the principal energy sources to combat climate change. The number of countries generating power from offshore wind energy is expected to double over the next decade.”

For additional information, contact the Office of Navigation Systems at CGNAV@uscg.mil.

Shipping Fees

Common carriers voluntarily have waived or refunded approximately $1.7 million in fees or surcharges since July 2022 after a complaint process was created by a landmark shipping law, according to the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC).

Noting the public was “making active use of their ability to file charge complaints,” the FMC said its Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services has handled more than 300 matters during fiscal year 2023.

About three quarters of those cases related to commercial cargo import shipment issues and almost half of the total export related cases involved agricultural shipments, the FMC reported.

Staff anticipates initiating a rulemaking in 2024 to establish a permanent charge complaint process, the FMC added.

The FMC also reported substantive progress in completing rulemaking mandated by the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022.

Those include rules on detention and demurrage billing practices, unreasonable refusal to deal with respect to vessel space accommodations and unfair and unjustly discriminatory methods.