Sen. Tom Carper released a statement Nov. 27 after the House passed an amended bill reauthorizing the U.S. Coast Guard.
The bill includes the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, or VIDA, a bipartisan measure Carper helped negotiate that will protect waterways and marine life in Delaware and throughout the U.S. from invasive species and harmful pollution. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 94-6 earlier this month and is expected to be signed into law early next month.
“Today, we are one step closer to getting a strong, bipartisan Coast Guard reauthorization bill signed into law,” said Carper. “First and foremost, this bill provides the brave men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard with the tools they need to safeguard our waters. At the same time, this bill protects waters across our country from the threat of invasive species found in ballast water and provides important regulatory certainty for vessel owners and mariners. This bill proves that we can keep our vessels moving in and out of our waterways while protecting our environment and marine life at the same time. Thank you to Sens. Thune, Nelson, Stabenow and Portman, and the staffs of each of these members, for working with me and my staff on this important bipartisan bill that is now on its way to the president’s desk. I’m glad we were able to get this important bill across the finish line here in Congress, and I would urge the president to act swiftly to sign this legislation into law.”
The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act:
— Delegates the lead role in establishing standards for discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel to the Environmental Protection Agency and assigns the Coast Guard the lead role in monitoring and enforcing standards.
— Accommodates unique regional situations. Pacific Coast ballast water exchanges will continue and the Great Lakes may set their own basin-wide standards.
— Allows states to establish no-discharge zones for areas that require additional protection.
Highlights of The Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018 (S. 140):
— Maritime drug and border enforcement: Includes new authorities to combat illicit trafficking and smuggling and transnational criminal organizations by furthering interagency cooperation, combating concealment of bulk cash and increasing the budget for investigations and ability to use informants.
— Multiyear contracting: Authorizes the Coast Guard Commandant to utilize several new acquisition tools, including multi-year funding for procuring future National Security Cutters. These changes will allow the Coast Guard to reduce the price of follow-on vessels and give shipyards greater predictability, stabilizing workforces.
— Authorization level: Authorizes the U.S. Coast Guard for fiscal 2018 and 2019 at $10.1 billion and $10.6 billion. The previous Coast Guard authorization, enacted in 2016, authorized $9.1 billion for the service for fiscal 2016 and 2017.
— Arctic Operations: Directs the Coast Guard to conduct a review of the assets and personnel required to ensure the safety and security of the Arctic.
— Recreational Boating: Increases safety and clarifies requirements for recreational boating safety by implementing the installation of engine cut-off switches and alternate signaling devices.