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Capital Report


November 2013 Issue

US House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee Approves Water Resources Act

The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure unanimously approved H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA), which is bipartisan water resources reform legislation intended to cut federal red tape and bureaucracy, streamline the infrastructure project delivery process, foster fiscal responsibility and strengthen water transportation networks to promote U.S. competitiveness, prosperity and economic growth.

Through WRRDA, Congress authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out its missions to develop, maintain and support vital port and waterways infrastructure needs, and support effective and targeted flood protection and environmental restoration needs. Historically, Congress has passed such legislation every two years to provide clear direction to the presidential administration and the Corps, but no bill has been signed into law since 2007.

WRRDA was introduced in the House by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), Committee Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II (D-W.V.), Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.).

“This markup continues our bipartisan work to spur job creation and lay the foundation for sustained economic growth with strategic investments in America’s aging harbor and inland waterway infrastructure,” said Bishop. “America needs a 21st century infrastructure to compete in a global economy.”

House Science, Space and Technology
Subcommittee Hearing on Satellite Data Gaps

The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Subcommittee on Environment held a joint hearing to conduct ongoing oversight of NOAA’s weather and climate satellite programs.

The Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and the Geostationary Orbiting Environmental Satellite (GOES) are being developed to provide necessary relief for the U.S. aging weather satellite network. These polar and geostationary satellites are the backbone of the U.S. weather forecasting enterprise, and it is essential that older satellites be replaced before they fail. The failure to do so would result in unacceptably dangerous gaps in the nation’s weather forecasting and put at risk Americans who rely on accurate reports for protection from severe weather events. Members discussed remediation strategies for the unavoidable gap in polar coverage and the importance of preventing gaps in the nation’s geostationary satellites.

“Refocusing the JPSS to a weather-focused mission improves our confidence in meeting launch dates,” said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator of the Satellite and Information Services at NOAA. “Close management of the Suomi NPP [Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite] operations will allow us to preserve that mission for as long as possible.” She mentioned that there are now two years of successful operations of Suomi on orbit. Increased confidence in the launch development schedule and Suomi’s on orbit operation success “gives us confidence that if Suomi NPP continues to perform as expected, then we can significantly reduce our projected risk of a gap in orbit.”

According to NOAA, a polar satellite data gap would result in less accurate and timely weather forecasts and warnings of extreme events, such as hurricanes, storm surges and floods. This would endanger lives, property and the nation’s critical infrastructures.

US Coast Guard Extends Expiration Date for Mariners’ Credentials
The U.S. Coast Guard announced that mariners whose credentials expire between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30 will receive an extension due to the current lapse in appropriations.

Currently, the Coast Guard is unable to process all mariner credentials in time to ensure that all mariners receive their renewed credentials before their current documents expire.

Under the authority of 46 United States Code 7507, the Coast Guard will be granting extensions to national endorsements until December 31, 2013.

Mariners affected by this situation should visit the National Maritime Center’s (NMC) website www.uscg.mil/nmc to print the letter granting this extension. Mariners should retain this letter with their credentials and have it available for Coast Guard or any other officials who may ask to examine them.

The Coast Guard will issue new credentials to mariners who must renew their credentials and are likely to sail on international routes. Mariners and industry stakeholders are encouraged to monitor the NMC website for updates.

US Senate Approves US-Mexico Transboundary Agreement
The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has approved the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Agreement, which establishes a legal framework for developing oil and natural gas reservoirs that straddle the U.S.-Mexico maritime border in the Gulf of Mexico.

The two countries signed the agreement on February 20, 2012. Two months later, it was ratified by the Mexican Senate.

The Transboundary Agreement lifts the moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the Western Gap; provides legal certainty for development along the entire transboundary area; opens access to more than 1 million new acres on the Outer Continental Shelf, hundreds of millions of barrels of oil and billions of cubic feet of natural gas; and encourages the promotion of common safety and environmental standards, while ensuring that each country retains authority over activity in their respective waters.

“Energy is already flowing between our two countries,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). “Mexico remains one of the top exporters of crude oil to the United States, and we are Mexico’s largest supplier of petroleum products. Approval of the Transboundary Agreement will allow this relationship to continue and grow.”

The U.S. House of Representatives passed its own version of the legislation to approve the Transboundary Agreement earlier in the year. The House version differs significantly from the Senate version. The Senate bill does not include the provision in the House bill that would exempt U.S. producers working on joint projects in Mexican waters from the resources extraction reporting requirement of the 1934 Securities Exchange Act.


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