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Capital Report

2015:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL

April 2015 Issue

Import Cargo at US Ports To Rise After Contract Negotiations
Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to rise an unusually high 16.9 percent this March over the same time last year as West Coast ports begin to dig out from a backlog of cargo that built up during just-concluded contract negotiations with dockworkers, according to the Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

“The contract talks are over, but the tentative agreement still has to be ratified, and it’s going to take months to get back to normal on the West Coast,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said.

Following negotiations that began last spring, the contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union expired on July 1. Despite ongoing talks, the lack of a contract and operational issues led to crisis-level congestion at the ports, and retailers and other businesses asked U.S. President Barack Obama in December to encourage the use of a federal mediator. A mediator joined the talks in January but a tentative agreement was not reached until February 20, after Labor Secretary Tom Perez sat down to personally broker a deal.

Import cargo volume for the first half of 2015 is forecast at 8.7 million TEU, an increase of 4.5 percent over the same period last year.

Legislation Progresses for Regulating Vessel Discharge
The bipartisan effort to establish a uniform national framework for the regulation of vessel discharges took another step forward as the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved S. 373, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), with strong bipartisan support.

A broad-based coalition of nearly 60 organizations joined the American Waterways Operators (AWO) in urging the committee to approve VIDA. This measure would replace a patchwork of overlapping and conflicting federal and state regulations with a uniform, science-based federal framework for vessel discharge regulation. AWO and the coalition will work with the Commerce Committee to bring S. 373 to the Senate floor this spring.

US Senate Fails to Override Presidential Keystone Veto
After U.S. President Barack Obama vetoed legislation that would have approved the Keystone XL pipeline, the U.S. Senate fell short of the votes needed to override the veto. Because the Senate failed to garner enough votes, the House will not vote on the override.

Now, the Obama Administration will get to make the final decision on whether the pipeline will be permitted. The State Department is expected to finalize its assessment of the Keystone project in the upcoming weeks or months, after which Obama will decide on permitting.

If approved, the pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels a day of primarily Canadian crude oil to Nebraska, according to Reuters. Supporters of Keystone in Congress could continue to keep up the fight for approval by attaching the project to another bill this year, Reuters reported Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) as saying.

Science-Related Bills Move From US House Committee
The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a markup of H.R. 1119, H.R. 1156, H.R. 1162, H.R. 1158, and H.R. 874. All of the bills passed out of committee on bipartisan voice votes.

H.R. 1119, the Research and Development Efficiency Act, requires that the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) establish a working group of federal research agencies to figure out how to better standardize and streamline the administrative requirements on their grantees.

H.R. 1156, the International Science and Technology Cooperation Act of 2015, requires the Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish a National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) committee to coordinate international science and technology activities across federal agencies and identify opportunities for new international science and technology partnerships aligned with U.S. foreign policy priorities.

H.R. 1162, the Science Prize Competitions Act, would strengthen the authority federal agencies have to use prize competitions as an alternative to incentivize scientific research and development.

H.R. 1158, the Department of Energy Laboratory Modernization and Technology Transfer Act of 2015, improves management of the National Laboratories, enhances technology commercialization, and facilitates public-private partnerships.

H.R. 874, the American Super Computing Leadership Act, amends the Department of Energy High-End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004 to improve the high-end computing research and development program of the Department of Energy.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) encouraged a larger, comprehensive R&D bill. “Rather than continuing to focus on small bills like those before us today—meritorious though they may be—I would hope that we can now turn our focus to working together to hold comprehensive hearings and bipartisan dialogue aimed at reauthorizing America COMPETES,” she said.

US House Bill Authorizes NSF STEM-Related Grants
The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1020, the STEM Education Act of 2015, in a 412-8 vote. The bill authorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award grants and support activities, including teaching fellowships, to improve STEM learning outcomes. The bill incorporated provisions previously proposed by Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) and Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.).

“Strong support for STEM education in K-12 education will help prepare our children for good-paying jobs in high-demand fields,” Esty said.

“These programs are key to reaching the more than 13 million students that visit museums each year, many of whom will be inspired to pursue science careers,” Lipinski said.

2015:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL

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