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Marine Log

April 23, 2008

Bush threatens to veto Coast Guard Authorization Act

President Bush threatened today to veto the $8.4 billion Coast Guard Authorization Act (HR 2830) if it includes a provision requiring the Coast Guard to provide security around liquefied natural gas terminals and vessels. There are also a number of other elements of the act that are apparently not to the Administration's liking and which are spelled out in a Statement of Administration Policy sent to the House by the Office of Management and Budget.

Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen today also issued a statement saying he is "deeply concerned" about a number of provisions in the Act that, he says, "would have a detrimental effect on the Coast Guard's ability to carry out our many vital maritime safety, security and environmental protection missions. As the commandant, I have an obligation to the public and our Coast Guard men and women to ensure the Coast Guard retains the necessary discretion and flexibility to meet our mission demands in an often-changing, dangerous operating environment. This bill, in its current form, does not do that. I am also disappointed that proposals to protect seafarers who participate in the investigation and adjudication of environmental crimes and enhance our ability to prosecute alien migrant smugglers at sea were not included in the bill. While the bill contains several provisions that would improve Coast Guard operations and mission support, I strongly oppose other provisions as written in the bill that would limit the commandant's authority to direct Coast Guard operations and assign senior personnel to specific duties. I look forward to continuing to work with the Congress to address each of the provisions outlined in the Statement of Administration Policy."

The Statement of Administration Policy says:

The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 2830 in its current form because it would adversely affect homeland security, protection of the marine environment, and maritime safety and would unreasonably intrude upon the Commandant's authority and discretion to command and control the Coast Guard. Cumulatively, these provisions would compromise the organizational efficiency and operational effectiveness of the Coast Guard; ultimately, they could diminish its effectiveness in carrying out its safety, security, and stewardship missions. Notwithstanding the other provisions of the measure that would enhance Coast Guard operations, the Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 2830.

The Administration urges the House to modify the problematic parts of the bill, including the following:

First, the section of the bill that would require the Coast Guard to provide security around liquefied natural gas terminals and vessels should be eliminated because it provides an unwarranted and unnecessary subsidy to the owners of private infrastructure that is contrary to the existing assistance framework and would divert finite Coast Guard assets from other highpriority missions, as determined by the Commandant. If H.R. 2830 were presented to the President with this provision, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

Second, the Administration strongly urges the House to adopt the Administration's proposal to introduce organizational flexibility into the Coast Guard command structure and alignment with the other armed forces, rather than the language of Section 210. This section as currently worded would exchange one statutorily-mandated command structure for another, thus defeating the purpose of the Administration's initiative.

Third, the Administration urges the House to substitute the Administration's recently transmitted proposal for the regulation of ballast water treatment for the existing language of title V. The Administration's substitute language would provide for the effective and efficient implementation of ballast water treatment standards and for the development of enforceable national uniform standards to control discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels without the use of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Absent such language (or a decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals), as of September 30, 2008, discharges incidental to the normal operation of upwards of 13 million vessels—including recreational vessels, towboat vessels, commercial fishing boats, barges, and large ocean-going vessels—will be prohibited by the Clean Water Act unless NPDES permits covering such discharges are in place.

Download the statement here for the rest of the litany of Administration problems with the Act.

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