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Public Statements

Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LoBIONDO. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

H.R. 2838 will reauthorize the activities of the Coast Guard through 2014 at levels which are consistent with the House-passed budget resolution.

This bill includes critical provisions that will give the Coast Guard, its servicemembers and dependents greater parity with their counterparts in the Department of Defense, something that is critical and important for these patriotic Americans. Ensuring parity among the armed services has been a top priority for the committee for some time, and I am proud to say this bill makes significant steps and progress towards aligning the Coast Guard's authorities with those granted by DOD.

In addition to the parity issue, the bill contains a title intended to reform and improve Coast Guard administration. The Coast Guard does an outstanding job for our Nation. However, in the current budget environment, it is important for the Coast Guard to review the services authorities and to find ways to improve operations while reducing costs. I believe this bill will do just that.

The bill also amends shipping laws to improve safety and foster job growth throughout the maritime sector and reauthorizes the activities of the Federal Maritime Commission through 2015.

Included in the bill is the text of H.R. 2840, the Commercial Vessel Discharge Reform Act, which will improve current regulation of ballast water and other discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel.

Mr. Chairman, this provision is pretty simple. Currently, the Coast Guard and the EPA are making rules and have authority to enforce ballast water. There are currently 29 States and tribes that have their own rules, and it is a regulatory nightmare to be able to do business in. We need one standard operation that reaches the highest level of technology that is available to us. This also allows for us to improve technology, and this is. If we're talking about jobs, and we certainly are hearing an awful lot about that these days, this is an opportunity for us to be able to ensure that maritime jobs will be able to continue to grow.

The current system is simply impossible, and it threatens our international maritime trade.

This legislation eliminates this ridiculous regulatory nightmare and establishes a single uniform national standard.

The EPA, the Coast Guard, the National Academy of Sciences, the EPA Science Advisory Board, the U.S. Flag Industry, every national maritime labor union, manufacturers, farmers, energy producers, and our largest and most strategic international trading partners all endorse our approach to this legislation. It's a commonsense way to be able to move forward, and it helps us be able to accomplish our goals in the long run.

I would urge all of my colleagues to support the legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. LoBIONDO. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I would just like to take a moment and reiterate our thanks to the men and women of the Coast Guard--unsung heroes who are underrecognized and underappreciated, who put their lives on the line every day. They're a critical component of our armed services. They conduct critical missions to interdict illegal drugs. They provide fishery law enforcement as well as the Homeland Security component. We want to make sure that we recognize and appreciate their efforts on an everyday basis.

I would also like to, once again, thank Mr. Larsen for his cooperation overall on the committee and especially with this legislation.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. LoBIONDO. I want to thank the gentleman from Maryland for his kind comments. And it is correct, we've had an outstanding working relationship. We've been able to come together on many issues and share a lot of information that has helped us both come to a better conclusion.

Unfortunately, in even great relationships sometimes there is some disagreement. It's an honest disagreement on how we should proceed. I understand the gentleman's argument, but I believe that the provision is duplicative and costly. The implementation of this language I think will worsen the challenges for the Coast Guard at a time when they're facing very difficult money constraints. We've heard the talk about how they don't have the resources to do what they need to do, and we have to worry about their critical missions being able to be conducted.

The Coast Guard does not support the adoption of this provision; they did not last year. I, once again, want to thank the gentleman from Maryland for working so closely with me, but, unfortunately, I have to oppose this particular amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. LoBIONDO. I appreciate what the gentleman from Mississippi is attempting to do here; however, I don't think this is workable. Every Member of Congress would, every 4 years, get to nominate someone to the Coast Guard Academy. I send a number of qualified young people in that direction every year. And the Coast Guard strongly opposes this amendment.

I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Courtney).

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Mr. LoBIONDO. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate what the gentleman from New York is attempting to do. We did give a mighty effort in trying to reach an agreement. It's one of those situations where we just have a different point of view.

It is my opinion that this amendment would make the current situation even worse because it would allow States to completely prohibit the discharge of ballast water, if they chose, regardless of what technology was installed on a vessel. So here is the situation:

You could have a vessel owner install technology worth millions of dollars, technology that would treat ballast water to 1 million times the standard in the bill, and you could still have a State come in and say, We're going to prohibit the vessel from discharging.

It completely undermines the uniform standards that we are attempting to accomplish. The amendment would also allow States to dictate how much ballast water could be discharged, the depth of the water where the discharge is permitted, and even at what hours of the day.

I think--and, again, my opinion is--that this amendment would completely undermine our efforts to put in place a single uniform national ballast water standard and that, if this amendment were to go forward, it would actually gut this portion of it.

So I urge all Members to oppose the amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. LoBIONDO. Mr. Chairman, I strongly, strongly, strongly oppose this amendment. This current regulatory nightmare will shut down our shipping lanes. It is unworkable, and I hope our colleagues understand the consequences if this amendment were to pass. I urge opposition to the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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