Congresswoman introduces two port-related bills
Rep. Laura Richardson offered two bills Friday that direct the Department of Transportation to help port authorities deploy pollution reduction technologies.
The approach would create a competitive grant program and would speed the pace of harbor dredging and maintenance by requiring the full amount collected each year through an ocean freight tax be made fully available to the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Clean Low-Emissions Authorization Nationwide (CLEAN) Ports Act would allow ports to compete for grants for technologies such as cold-ironing (a form of ship-to-shore electrification for ships at berth), vessel smoke stack filtration systems, low-emission rail yard locomotives and diesel-electric container yard cranes.
H.R. 3446 'will ensure Long Beach and Los Angeles are not financially at a disadvantage with our nationwide counterparts as they implement long needed actions that will improve the health of our communities. It will also help our economy because many of these proven and effective technologies are developed and manufactured right here in the United States,' said the California Democrat, whose district includes the Port of Long Beach.
The bill is an outgrowth of lessons learned by the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach from their aggressive emissions reduction programs, she added in a statement.
Richardson also proposed reforming the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund by requiring Congress to appropriate the entire amount of ocean freight taxes collected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection each year.
The HMT is assessed on ocean imports and domestic freight moves along the coast to help pay for maintaining deep-draft navigation channels. The tax is computed at 0.125 percent of the cargo's value.
Maritime interests and shippers are frustrated that a large portion of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is unused to help mask the federal deficit in the face of ongoing needs to make ports more accessible to ever-larger cargo vessels. The tax on cargo owners brings in about $1.3 billion per year and the trust fund has close to a $5 billion surplus, but less than $800 million is appropriated per year.
'A dedicated funding source for port and harbor dredging is critically important for maintaining America's competitiveness in international commerce, generating revenue for our port cities and creating and saving jobs,' Richardson said.
Earlier this summer, Richardson introduced the MOVEMENT Act — Making Opportunities Via Efficient and More Effective National Transportation Act of 2009 — that would increase the HMT to raise an estimated $2.5 billion to $2.7 billion per year for freight-related infrastructure in and around land and seaport cities. Money would be allocated to state departments of transportation for port, highway or rail projects. The National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America recently denounced the bill's attempt to increase the HMT.
The bill would assess a 0.4375 percent tax based on the value of goods and set up a separate goods movement account within the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for landside projects. Ninety percent of the money would have to be allocated to transportation improvements, 7 percent would go to mitigate the environmental impact of freight transport and 3 percent would go to cover cargo security needs.
Goods originating in Canada or Mexico would be exempt from the tax, but imports that arrived at Mexican or Canadian ports and then enter the United States via the land border would be taxed at a rate of 0.3125 percent of the cargo value. ' Eric Kulisch