Welcome to March, the month without a Federal holiday, but the month that baseball gets started with Spring Training!! Hold onto your seats, and not just if your along those parts of the East Coast being battered by strong winds and precipitation caused by a nor’easter. We’ve got a lot to cover today.
Infrastructure: Adding on to my comments in our last update, thanks to “RF” for reminding me that the White House has put out lots more details about its plan. Find the document here. If you don’t want to look through all 52 pages, here’s a few WIFF’s notes: Funding for WIFIA expansion is on page 11; it’s EPA only BUTY on p. 13, funding would be made available for former (deauthorized) Corps projects. There’s expand authority for non-Federal interests to construct and operate inland waterways on p. 28.; Also the Corps would get authority to engage in long-term (over 5 years) contracts, p. 29. Barriers to commercial operation of hydropower facilities at Corps projects would be reduced, p. 30. There’s overall expanded authority to accept non-Federal funds beginning at the very bottom of p. 30, even if no federal funds have been appropriated. Cost limits (now as 902(b) limits) on Corps projects could be waived, p. 31. Beginning at page 35, there are several proposals to speed project permitting and reduce environmental protections. See also p. 43. A Performance-Based Pilot Program to experiment with using environmental performance measures instead of environmental reviews is discussed beginning at p. 48. And finally, another pilot program to experiment with negotiation of mitigation to address environmental impacts. (For some of you, my reference to this as Mit-Neg will make sense).
The Univ. of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance & Commerce put out a report saying the plan “fails to provide strong incentives for states to invest in public infrastructure and that “There will be little to no impact on the economy.”…A Senate committee held an infrastructure hearing this past week. Here are the statements of DOT Secretary Elaine Chao and Assistant Secretary of the Army RD James. Sen. Carper (DE) was especially concerned that the Administration is proposing to boost infrastructure projects at the same time as it cuts funding for the programs that support those projects. For the Corps’ view of how the infrastructure plan will affect its mission, click here.
Human Contribution to Climate Change: I know this is still a controversial subject but read this report recently issued by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which is an arm of Congress. It concludes that “current scientific assessment states high confidence (extremely likely) that human influence is the dominant cause of the observed warming over the past half-century.” It notes that this consensus “ has evolve based on increasing confidence through research on scientific concepts established as early as 200 years ago.”
WRDA 18: I provided many Hill offices with my Common Sense Proposals for WRDA 2018. One pushes back against the OMB-imposed BCR of 2.5 to 1 and its discount rate of 7%, both of which are contrary to law. It also gets to requiring that all benefits of a proposed project be given equal treatment. My other proposal is that we implement 10-year regional plans for coastal projects including budgeting that cuts across different colors of money. There are some who want to give Districts the authority to set funding priorities. It’s not going to happen. And it won’t work for states whose coasts are split into two or more districts. Regional means regional; using a systems approach and involving all major stakeholders in as transparent a process as possible. That can best be done at the Division level. I’d like your thoughts and also invite your suggestions for WRDA.
News Briefly: The Corps has published its Section 408 Permit guidance in the Federal Register and has asked for comments….St. Johns, St. Lucie and the Galveston to Sabine project are among the Chief’s Reports waiting for authorization in WRDA18….Rep. Garrett Graves (LA) asked a FWS witness at a hearing recently why that agency forces the use of offshore sand when sand is available from inlets for less cost. No reply so far….But FWS wants Congress to approve all of its maps (SC and NC) under the digital mapping program. You can see if your region is covered here….The VA Senate has passed legislation to create a regional coastal resilience authority for the Hampton Roads area. I like the concept a lot!...The Administration’s offshore oil and gas drilling plans are getting push back from Republicans who think it doesn’t mix well with beaches. Here’s a new bill on that subject whose sponsors are all from the GOP!