Omnibus Legislation Includes Water Resources, Pipeline Safety Bills
December 22, 2020|Jeff Davis
The year-end omnibus fiscal legislation passed by Congress yesterday included two separate recurring bills negotiated by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee – the biennial water resources bill, and a pipeline safety reauthorization bill.
The Water Resources Development Act of 2020, negotiated with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is Division AA of the omnibus bill. And the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2020, negotiated with the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, is Division R of the bill.
WRDA. A two-year water resources development act was included in the final bill after the House T&I Committee compromised with the Senate Appropriations Committee on language in section 101 of the bill, spending down Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund balances. As included in the last House-passed bill, the language would only have excluded HMTF spending from budget scorekeeping totals for one year (fiscal 2021) – unless the Budget Control Act spending caps, which expire after FY 2021, are extended by law.
Much of next year is going to be a big fight over whether or not the caps get extended at all, and the official Appropriations Committee position (and the position held by most Democrats, for that matter) is that the caps should not be extended. So under the House-passed language, HMTF spending would once again be counted in the budget starting in 2022.
The final language reflects the way that the appropriators wanted to do things – the annual amount of HMTF spending that is not counted will be lower each year, but the exclusion from budget totals is guaranteed to last for ten years, not just one year.
The final language provides that appropriations from the HMTF for Corps of Engineers harbor maintenance activities won’t count towards any estimate of federal spending under the Budget Act of 1974 or the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act of 1985 (to which the Budget Control Act was an amendment), up to certain amounts. Those amounts are the total amount of HMTF tax and interest deposits for the year that is two years prior to the budget year (so the FY 2021 adjustment is based on the FY 2019 deposits), plus an annual amount of balance spend-down. The balance spend-down is split up into a large general-purpose pile and a smaller pile that can only be spent dredging donor ports and energy ports, as sought by the House.
The amounts of the balance spend-down caps each year increase, so that eventually, the current $9+ billion HMTF balance that has built up over the last 20 years will be gone.
The new language is effective for fiscal year 2021, so the total exclusion from budget totals is $2.330 billion (FY 2019 actual HMTF receipts and interest of $1.780 billion, plus $500 million, plus $50 million). Interestingly, the appropriations bills passed yesterday were written and scored without reference to this yet-to-be-enacted exclusion, so if Congress wanted to pass a supplemental Corps of Engineers appropriations bill next spring, it could spend $2.33 billion and that money would not be counted towards any annual budget totals.
For next year’s budget cycle (FY 2022), the total budget exclusion will be capped at $2.103 billion (the actual FY 2020 receipts of $1.453 billion, which dropped because of COVID’s effects on world trade and travel, plus $600 million plus $50 million).
Of course, a WRDA bill is basically just a big list of water projects and the legislative language to make it easier for the Corps to build those projects. This bill authorizes new construction projects for the Corps with an eventual total cost of $18.45 billion:
|(1) Navigation||(4) Flood Risk Management and Ecosystem Restoration|
|AK Port of Nome Modifications||505.22||CO South Platte River and Tributaries||550.27|
|AK St. George Harbor||164.38||(5) Ecosystem Restoration|
|AK Unalaska Channels||35.96||CA Delta Islands and Levees||26.54|
|CT New Haven Harbor||74.69||CA Malibu Creek Ecosystem Restor.||279.21|
|NY/NJ Harbor Anchorages||26.07||CA Yuba River Ecosystem||103.04|
|TX Gulf Intracoastal Waterway||414.14||CO-NM-TX Rio Grande Management||26.15|
|TX Houston Ship Channel||885.64||FL Comprehensive Everglades Plan||755.32|
|TX Matagorda Ship Channel||220.66||IA-MO Grand River Basin||121.35|
|VA Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway||102.76||IL Great Lakes/Miss. River Interbasin||858.05|
|(2) Flood Risk Management||IL Chicago River South Fork||17.93|
|AZ Little Colorado River||83.48||MD Anacostia Watershed||39.80|
|CA Westminster, E. Garden Grove||1,265.10||MO St. Louis Riverfront||94.41|
|CT/NY Fairfield & Westchester Cos.||30.40||NY-NJ Hudson-Raritan Estuary||421.44|
|KY Louisville Metro Flood Protection||188.09||NY Hudson River Habitat Restor.||44.64|
|ND Souris River Basin||91.95||TX Jefferson County||59.91|
|NJ Peckman River Basin||150.98||(6) Water Supply|
|NM Middle Rio Grande||310.68||OR Willamette Basin Review||0.00|
|OK Tulsa and West Tulsa Levees||137.40||(7) Modifications and Other Projects|
|PR Rio Culebrinas||25.86||CA San Luis Rey Flood Control||191.21|
|PR Rio Guayanilla||159.11||FL Caloosahatchee River||1,030.00|
|PR Rio Grande de Manati||14.29||FL Central/Southern FL Canal 111||133.47|
|USVI Savan Gut, St Thomas||74.11||KY Kentucky Lock||1,166.81|
|USVI Turpentine Run, St Thomas||45.13||NC Carolina Beach Renourishment||50.25|
|(3) Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction||NC Wrightsville Beach||107.66|
|DE Delaware River Dredged Material||360.30||TX Corpus Christi Ship Channel||681.62|
|NJ Delaware River Dredged Material||300.33||VA Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway||59.50|
|NJ Rahway River Basin||74.34|
|NJ Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook||165.66||TOTAL COSTS, ALL PROJECTS||18,453.20|
|NY E. Rockaway Inlet||1,040.31|
|NY Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Pt.||3,112.18|
|NY Hashamomuck Cove||66.81|
|RI Pawcatuck River||57.97|
|VA Norfolk Coastal||1,450.65|
A full section-by-section summary of the bill can be read here.
Pipelines. In the House, jurisdiction over pipelines is split. Transportation and Infrastructure has jurisdiction over “transportation” and “transportation safety” generally, but pipelines carry energy products across state lines in interstate commerce, and both of those are Energy and Commerce jurisdiction. In 2019, both panels produced differing Democrat-only bills with a strong climate component, opposed by the industry (and by Republicans), and the bills never made it all the way out of committee. In the Senate, a bipartisan solution emerged (S. 2299) and passed that chamber unanimously on August 6. The final bill passed yesterday appears based on the Senate bill.
The final bill authorizes funding for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for fiscal years 2021, 2022, and 2023. Democrats emphasized that the final bill will lower greenhouse gas emissions by requiring the immediate repair of any existing or future methane leaks and by requiring pipeline operators to update their inspection and maintenance plans to identify ways to minimize leaks and require PHMSA to study ways to update regulations to minimize natural gas releases
A full section-by-section summary of the bill can be read here.
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