Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Commandant Challenged On Offshore Wind Regs

Washington, D.C.—A veteran House Democrat from California pressed Coast Guard Commandant Linda Fagan on why her service has not done more on implementing a law applying the Jones Act to the offshore wind industry.

“Little things mean a lot,” Rep. John Garamendi said, citing the progress on that effort by the Custom and Border Patrol. “This is a major issue about how … American industry, American workers, American maritime are going to participate in the offshore wind industry. Your regulations are critically important in carrying out the law.”

Garamendi challenged Fagan on the issue during a hearing on the Coast Guard’s fiscal year 2025 budget request by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

Referencing challenges linked to the offshore wind industry, Fagan assured the panel the Coast Guard is committed to carrying out congressional intent, specifically about the Jones Act application. She offered to have her team return with an update on the status of that effort.

Members of the subcommittee also used the hearing to express their frustration again about the status of icebreakers, known as Polar Security Cutters, as well as the lack of information about them.

Fagan described a Polar Security Cutter as a top acquisition priority for the Coast Guard, stressing its importance to protecting the nation’s sovereign interests in that region.

She conceded the current budget request does not align with that goal.

In fiscal year 2025, the Coast Guard is expected to rely on prior appropriations to continue construction of the first hull, Fagan said.

Permitting Reform

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) applauded the inclusion of key provisions of its permitting reform proposal in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of fiscal year 2025.

“Thanks to the diligent and bipartisan work of our congressional port champions, we are one step closer to realizing the benefits of federal investment in upgraded port infrastructure with less bureaucracy and faster permitting,” AAPA President and CEO Cary Davis said.

According to AAPA, key provisions of the Permitting Optimization for Responsible Transportation (PORT) Act included in the NDAA would require the Maritime Administration to update its list of categorical exclusions, extend the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP) application deadline when significant amendments are made to the Notice of Funding Opportunity and provide Congress with annual updates on grant obligation timelines and staffing shortages.

AAPA called for swift passage of an NDAA that includes the provisions from the PORT Act as well as a $750 million authorization for PIDP.

WOTUS Anniversary

Key Republicans marked the one-year anniversary of a major Supreme Court ruling on Waters of the United States by accusing the Biden administration of ignoring the decision.

“In the meantime, however, our farmers, small businesses and property owners are being left in regulatory limbo, uncertain how to responsibly comply with the Clean Water Act,” said Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and David Rouzer (R-N.C.).

Graves is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Rouzer is chairman of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee.

In a response, the Environmental Protection Agency defended what it called the administration’s expeditious effort to conform to the court’s ruling, provide clarity and protect the nation’s waters while advancing infrastructure projects, economic opportunities and agricultural activities.

Boating Safety Statistics

In 2023, recreational boating fatalities dropped by 11.3 percent, non-fatal injuries fell by 4.3 percent and overall incidents declined by 4.9 percent, according to statistics released by the Coast Guard.

That report showed the fatalities decreased from 636 in 2022 to 564 in 2023, while non-fatal injuries went from 2,222 to 2,126.

Numbers for overall incidents were 3,844 in 2023 compared to 4,040 in 2022.

 Alcohol continued to be the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2023, accounting for 79 deaths or 17 percent of total fatalities, the report said.

The full 2023 Recreational Boating Statistics report is available to the public at www.uscgboating.org.

NMERPAC Virtual Meetings

The National Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee (NMERPAC) has two virtual meetings scheduled in June.

On June 11-12, NMERPAC’s Subcommittee on Training and Experience Guidelines for Seafarers Employed Aboard Ships Using Alternative Fuels is scheduled to meet virtually. Hosted by the Office of Merchant Mariner Credentialing, the meeting is to be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. EDT on both days through Microsoft Teams.

NMERPAC advises the Homeland Security secretary on matters related to personnel in the U.S. merchant marine, including training, qualifications, certification, documentation and fitness.

On June 25-26, NMERPAC’s Subcommittee on STCW Convention and Code Review is scheduled to meet virtually. Hosted by the Office of Merchant Mariner Credentialing, the meeting is to be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. EDT on both days through Microsoft Teams.

Anyone who is not part of the NMERPAC email list and would like to attend the meetings can contact Pamela Moore at pamela.j.moore@uscg.mil for additional information.

Medical Advisory Committee

The National Merchant Mariner Medical Advisory Committee (NMEDMAC) has scheduled meetings June 5-6 in Galveston, Texas.

NMEDMAC advises the Homeland Security secretary on matters relating to medical certification determinations for the issuance of licenses, certification of registry and merchant mariners’ documents; medical standards and guidelines for the physical qualifications of operators of commercial vessels; medical examiner education; and medical research.

NMEDMAC and its subcommittees are scheduled to meet in person from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (CDT) on both days at Texas A&M Maritime Academy, 200 Seawolf Parkway, Galveston, Texas.

Pre-registration is not required. Information about this meeting, including the full agenda, was published in the Federal Register on May 15.

For additional information, contact Pamela Moore at 202-372-1361or pamela.j.moore@uscg.mil.

EPA Permitting Website

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched a new website, epa.gov/permits, to serve as a centralized web-based platform for information about federal environmental permitting.

Described by EPA as a one-stop portal for the public, permit applicants and federal, state and local agencies, the website is expected to highlight the agency’s permitting and environmental review programs and share information on related statutes and environmental justice initiatives.

It also is to display the status of permits for large-scale infrastructure projects covered by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST-41).