APRIL 19, 2018 — The American Waterways Operators (AWO) reports that yesterday, due to inclusion of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) within the bill, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017 failed by three votes to reach the 60 votes needed in the United States Senate to end debate and move to a vote on final passage.
AWO says that while the vote tally reflected bipartisan support for the Coast Guard authorization bill with VIDA included, the votes against included several senators who were previously supporters of VIDA, either in this Congress or the previous Congress: Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), Sen. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts).
In response to the vote, Thomas A. Allegretti, President & CEO of The American Waterways Operators, stated:
“The outcome of yesterday’s vote on VIDA was a great disappointment to the men and women of the American tugboat, towboat and barge industry, who work tirelessly to support homeland security and to deliver annually over 760 million tons of vital commodities that drive our economy.
“VIDA is both critically important and thoughtfully balanced legislation. Currently, commercial vessels navigating American waters are subject to a patchwork of conflicting vessel discharge regulations issued by two federal agencies and 25 states. Our government does not require airplanes, trains or trucks to disrupt transit, switch out technologies and take on exceedingly high costs to meet a different environmental standard every time the vehicle crosses state lines. To require this of commercial vessels defies common sense and threatens the viability of maritime commerce – the most environmentally friendly mode of cargo transport – throughout the country, including in states like Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Virginia.
“VIDA replaces today’s unsustainable system with one under which the Coast Guard administers a single federal ballast water discharge standard, but maintains as that standard one that the EPA and National Academy of Sciences have deemed the most stringent currently available, and that can be raised over time as technology improves. The approach taken by VIDA is the reason it is supported by over 320 organizations representing U.S. and international vessel owners and operators; fishing vessel, passage vessel and charterboat operators; labor unions; marine terminals and port authorities; national business organizations; and industries that rely on maritime shipping to transport essential cargoes in domestic and international commerce. This legislation solves a serious regulatory problem while protecting the environment – a point on which at least 60 senators had agreed for many months, until yesterday.
“We remain committed to working on a bipartisan basis to see VIDA enacted into law, and we call on the Senate to resolve any outstanding issues before adjourning for Memorial Day recess. The American maritime workforce, which urgently needs the balanced, common sense regulatory relief that VIDA provides, deserves no less.”
The American Waterways Operators is the national trade association representing the tugboat, towboat and barge industry which operates on the rivers, the Great Lakes, and along the coasts and in the harbors of the United States.