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February 20, 2009

Blank Rome outlines stimulus bill's maritime provisions

Law firm Blank Rome has issued an advisory that summarizes the maritime provisions in the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

In addition to the $100 million in grants to small shipyards, $60 million to states for ferry and ferry terminal projects, and $4.6 billion for the Corps of Engineers, that we reported here on February 15, the Blank Rome advisory notes several other maritime programs, including the following:

  • $150 million in new port security grants;
  • $1.5 billion for supplemental discretionary grants for a national surface transportation program, including funding for port infrastructure;
  • $300 million in new grants for EPA's Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) Program, including funding for cleaner marine engines;
  • $600 million for construction and repair of NOAA facilities, including ships; and
  • Extension of the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit through 2013 for electricity produced from qualified marine renewable facilities, including wind, tides, and ocean thermal currents.

Port Security Grants

The $150 million in new funding for port security grants will supplement $388.6 million in FY 2009 port security grant funds that DHS announced last month. In thenew round of funding, the cost share requirements have been waived.

Supplementary Discretionary Grants for Surface Transportation Including Ports

Blank Rome says the final Conference agreement appropriated $1.5 billion in discretionary competitive grant funding for all transportation modes, including ports. This provision will allow ports to compete for these funds at the Department of Transportation (DOT) and not have to compete within the states for scarce highway funds. However, applicants will have to compete for these funds across the modes, and demonstrate that their projects will have a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area or region. The Secretary of Transportation is directed to distribute these funds on an equitable geographic basis and one that represents a balance between urban and rural communities. The Secretary must publish criteria for the grant funding within 90 days, require applications to be submitted within 180 days following the publication of the criteria, and announce successful projects within one year from the date of enactment of H.R.1 (or February 17, 2010). Each grant is to be funded between $20 million and $300 million and the Federal share can be up to 100 percent of the funding for the project.

Highway Infrastructure Investment Program; Ferry Boat Capital Expenditures

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) received $27.5 billion in new funds for highway infrastructure of which $60 million is set aside for capital expenditures for ferry boat systems. Blank Rome expects this program to be modeled on the current ferry boat discretionary program administered by FHWA. The funds will be funneled through the states on a competitive basis for projects that can be completed within two years.

Small Shipyard Grants

Blank Rome notes that funds for the $100 million in supplemental grants for small shipyards remain available until September 20, 2010, and are not to be commingled with any existing funds.

Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE)

Blank Rome notes that the $4.6 billion for waterway management and restoration projects is for those that can be obligated and/or executed quickly; result in high, immediate employment; have little schedule risk; will be executed by contract or direct hire of temporary labor; and will complete a project or will provide a useful service that does not require additional funding. A supplemental appropriation of $375 million was appropriated for projects on the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

EPA was also appropriated $300 million for new grants under the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) Program created last year. The funds are to be used on projects that spur job creation, while achieving measurable reductions in diesel emissions. The new law also eliminates the match requirement for the $300 million. Under current EPA guidance, ports are eligible to administer these grants and the funds can be used to reduce emissions from marine engines. Announcements for funding will be made on the EPA web site in March.

Marine Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit

The tax provisions of H.R. 1 include a two-year extension of the production tax credit (one cent per kilowatt- hour for 2008) for electricity produced from qualifying marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy facilities, that have a capacity rating of at least 150 kilowatts, and are placed in service after October 2, 2008, and before January 1, 2012.


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