The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate passed the Howard Coble Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 on Wednesday. The bill now goes to the President for his signature.
For a large portion of the workboat industry, it’s a victory, provided President Obama doesn’t veto the proposed legislation. The bill extends until December 2017 the moratorium on vessel discharge regulation for vessels under 79', which means that the EPA Small Vessel General Permit (VGP) will not take effect as scheduled on Dec. 19.
“Negotiations over extension of the moratorium were intense and contentious. AWO worked closely with the offices of Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and David Vitter, R-La., to oppose last-minute efforts by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to splinter the bipartisan coalition supporting passage of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) by providing permanent relief for some vessels while leaving thousands of tugboats, towboats and barges without relief from the dysfunctional hodgepodge of overlapping Coast Guard, EPA and state regulation of ballast water and other vessel discharges,” Jennifer Carpenter, executive vice president, American Waterways Operators, said in a letter to AWO’s membership. “By contrast, VIDA will provide needed relief for all commercial vessels, establishing a uniform national framework for the regulation of vessel discharges and permanently exempting small vessels from regulation under the VGP.”
VIDA has strong bipartisan support in the House and the Senate, Carpenter said. “… the tireless grassroots efforts of AWO members during the 113th Congress have laid a strong foundation for passage of the legislation in the next Congress,” she said. “Incoming Commerce Committee Chairman Thune has already pledged to mark up VIDA early in 2015 and bring the bill to the Senate floor for consideration.”