November 14, 2018

Van Hollen Statement for the Record on Adoption of S.140, the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2018

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) released the following statement on the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2018:

"Today the Senate completed work on a new two year authorization for the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Maritime Commission and on regulations related to vessel discharges and other matters.

"This bill is intended to give our Coast Guard the certainty it needs to operate in a constantly changing environment, and I appreciate the significant bipartisan work that has gone into the legislation we vote on today. Maryland is home to the Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, our nation’s facility for maintaining and repairing the Coast Guard fleet, and I am proud of the work they do every day to support the security of our nation and ships at sea. However, I remain concerned with Title IV of this bill, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), which would regulate ballast water discharge from ships in the United States. While these provisions have improved since they were first brought to the Floor, the Title continues to preempt State authority on ballast water discharge from ships.  The State of Maryland currently has a more protective standard that is critical to maintaining a healthy Chesapeake Bay.  The Chesapeake Bay Watershed is enormous—64,000 square miles, part of six states and the entire District of Columbia, and almost 18 million people.
"The Chesapeake Bay is one of Maryland’s crown jewels, and it is of upmost importance to me that we continue the progress in cleaning up the Bay.  The Chesapeake Bay is a delicate ecosystem that is particularly sensitive to invasive species that can be spread through ballast water discharge.  These invasive species could compete with our native species in the Bay like blue crab, oysters, and striped bass.
"There are many provisions of this bill that I will support through the Conference process, including additional funding for operating expenses and acquisition funding and $30 million for environmental compliance and restoration. The Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay is currently on EPA’s National Priorities List and the Coast Guard’s priority list and is eligible for this funding.
"The bill also includes a provision that allows for incentive payments to go to Curtis Bay’s wage-grade employees who demonstrate improvements in performance or delivery during a project.
"I hope to gain clarity on Section 310 of the bill, which claims to provide more flexibility to choose where ship alterations or repairs can occur. I am concerned that this provision may have unintended consequences in certain situations, particularly with respect to the Coast Guard Yard. As this bill moves to conference and eventually the President, I hope to work with my colleagues to clear up this provision, and will continue to advocate for the rights of states like Maryland to protect their clean water.
"I will vote no today, but believe that we can continue to improve this bill in the Conference process. I look forward to working with my colleagues to do so. "