Omnibus Legislation Includes Water Resources, Pipeline Safety Bills

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.

Regular At Donor/ Total
Program Energy Ports Spend-Down
FY21 500 50 550
FY22 600 50 650
FY23 700 56 756
FY24 800 58 858
FY25 900 60 960
FY26 1,000 62 1,062
FY27 1,200 64 1,264
FY28 1,300 66 1,366
FY29 1,400 68 1,468
FY30 1,500 70 1,570
10-Year 9,900 604 10,504

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.

Search Eno Transportation Weekly

Latest Issues

Happening on the Hill