AWO'S REGULATORY ADVOCACY

by Thomas A. Allegretti Vice President-Operations The American Waterways Operators

The AWO regulatory program has as its cardinal objective the promotion of a stable and reasoned regulatory environment for domestic marine transportation. The objective is best achieved through the Association's pursuit of compelling analysis and effective advocacy, which will nearly always converge to positively influence the substance and direction of Administration policies and agency proposals. Compelling analysis and effective advocacy are the two key ingredients to a consistently successful and productive government relations program.

In large measure, they are most convincingly implemented when member guidance and participation is strong. Therefore, it is also a central goal of the regulatory program to maintain robust member involvement.

AWO's regulatory program seeks to provide its members with the assurance that notwithstanding the issue, the Association can be relied upon to vigorously defend their interests, and ensure that regulatory requirements are both based on a genuine need and developed with a practical perspective.

In 1987, AWO continued to pursue the overriding goal of consistently effective advocacy with the Administration in behalf of the barge and towing industry. The objective of a stable and reasoned regulatory environment for domestic marine transportation was pursued via a vigilant watchstanding position that judges agency proposals on their demonstrated need and a vigorous approach which utilizes all the opportunities, from the apparent to the obscure, which the regulatory process offers. The fruits of this effort have thus far been substantial.

Foremost among AWO's activities with federal and state governments in 1987 was the Association's analysis and advocacy on the hydra-headed matter of marine vapor recovery requirements. The AWO Task Force on Vapor Emissions pursued a multi-faceted program designed to ensure that both government deci- sion-makers and the barge industry fully understand the contribution which barge loadings make to the overall problem of hydrocarbon emissions, the increased safety risks which result from the utilization of vapor recovery equipment in marine loading applications, and the economic impact of vapor recovery requirements on barge operators. The AWO campaign was aimed at convincing state regulators not to move forward with vapor recovery regulations in the absence of federal safety standards. AWO also continued its effort to rectify the lack of federal leadership in the process of state regulation of hydrocarbon emissions from marine vessels.

The Task Force oversaw the development of analyses by a private research firm which produced important new information on the emissions role which barges and ships play and the substantial economic impact of vapor recovery requirements on independent barge operators. This information is critical in the decision-making processes of state governors and environmental regulators as they consider state regulation of marine emissions. The results of the analyses were also shared with the Marine Board Committee on the Control and Recovery of Hydrocarbon Vapors from Ships and Barges to assist that group in its assessment of the technical, safety, and economic aspects of control and recovery requirements.

The AWO analytical role is also being conducted within the Chemical Transportation Advisory Committee Subcommittee on Vapor Control, which is pursuing the development of industry recommendations to the Coast Guard regarding the technical components of a marine vapor control regulation which will establish uniform design criteria and minimum safety standards for these systems. The Task Force on Vapor Emissions is ensuring that barge interests are appropriately represented on the CTAC Subcommittee and that barge concerns are fully reflected in the evaluative process.

AWO has also used these analyses for advocacy; the work has been shared with Congressional participants in the ozone attainment debate and with the General Accounting Office which is conducting an analysis of the issue at the request of House Energy Committee Chairman John D. Dingell (D-MI). The analyses have been used in correspondence and discussions with EPA Administrator Lee Thomas and his principal air quality deputy in AWO's effort to have EPA assert a leadership role in guiding state activities on this issue.

The analyses have also been exceedingly useful in AWO's advocacy at the state level. Early in 1987, AWO contributed to a regulatory process in the State of Illinois, which originally contemplated the regulation of marine vessels within nonattainment areas in that state.

The compelling arguments presented by the barge industry resulted in a state decision not to regulate marine emissions at this time.

A like effort was undertaken by AWO with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in mid-1987, to halt premature attempts on the part of that body to impose marine vapor control requirements on vessels operating in the San Francisco Bay area. In 1987, Texas also adopted resolutions which indicate that it will not proceed with marine vapor control requirements at this time. Finally, the analyses have served as important information for an ongoing dialogue with high-ranking officials in the State of New Jersey, who are currently under court order to develop regulations that will reduce by 90 percent the hydrocarbon emissions from gasoline loading of barges at coastal refineries in New Jersey.

It is no overstatement to assert that without the focused leadership and concerted action of AWO members via the Task Force on Vapor Emissions, the developments in 1987 on this matter, both on the federal and state levels, are likely to have been certainly less reasoned and probably more onerous.

The subject of drug and alcohol abuse is one of high visibility and priority in the Reagan Administration.

The manifestation of that policy for our industry is a Coast Guard proposal to establish regulations designed to monitor, control and reduce alcohol and drug use on vessels.

AWO provided the Coast Guard with extensive commentary on such a program, expressing strong support for regulating intoxicant use, but taking exception to the mechanism proposed as too lenient to be effective and needlessly confusing.

The AWO analysis of the Coast Guard proposal uncovered a potentially disastrous effect it may have had on the longstanding corporate policies of many barge operators which prohibit the possession or consumption of alcohol aboard vessels.

While the Coast Guard proposal did not purport to govern questions of possession or consumption, seeking instead to establish intoxication standards, there was nonetheless the clear potential that it could be read to implicitly encourage alcohol consumption aboard commercial vessels.

AWO undertook a campaign to unequivocally clarify that the federal intoxication standard is not meant to dilute or supplant existing corporate prohibitions. AWO pursued this question at high levels within the Department of Transportation, and in the media, to ensure that both its potential effect on the marine industry and its fuller impact on Reagan Administration policy could be fully understood. These efforts had the intended effect. A Final Rule on commercial vessel intoxication issued by the Coast Guard late in the year contains provisions, in the enduring form of regulation, which clarify that nothing in these federal standards shall be construed as limiting the authority of a marine employer to limit or prohibit the possession or use of alcohol on board a vessel. The barge industry applauds the Coast Guard's responsiveness and foresight in making these changes.

AWO moved aggressively early in 1987 to influence the implementation of Annex II of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, to limit the harmful and unwarranted impacts of this regulation on the industry.

AWO supported the pollution prevention goals which Annex II sought to achieve regarding the carriage of noxious liquid substances.

However, the provisions of the regulation had the potential to inflict great harm on inland and coastal operations by applying design, equipment and operating requirements intended for foreign trading ships to domestic trading barges. The proposal would also have resulted in the wholesale movement of more than 60 cargoes now in Subchapter D to Subchapter O, without providing any evidence based on the toxicity or hazardous potential of these cargoes to support this movement. The AWO attempt to influence the regulatory implementation of Annex II was substantially compounded by the fast track on which the implementation proceeded.

AWO brought its substantial concerns to the attention of senior Coast Guard officers, providing a detailed listing of the provisions which were inappropriate for unmanned barges, and the general lack of relief which existing waiver provisions provided to barge operators.

These discussions ultimately led to a regulation which acknowledged that the inclusion of inland equipment was inappropriate, and agreement that if cargoes now designated as Subchapter D should be redesignated as Subchapter 0, that should be done through a separate rulemaking on which inland interests can focus. The Agency also agreed to broaden considerably the waiver provisions for coastwise trading barges, mitigating the effect of several provisions which had significant cost impacts.

The AWO effort in this matter secured the result that international requirements unnecessarily engrafted onto vessels trading domestically were either eliminated or substantially mitigated, without weakening the pollution prevention objectives of Annex II.

AWO's substantial campaign of analysis and advocacy in 1986 in response to the Coast Guard effort to revise and simplify the licensing regulations governing marine personnel bore fruit in 1987 with the publication of an Interim Final Rule that establishes a new licensing regime for the maritime industry. Ab- sent the AWO campaign in 1986, this Interim Final Rule is likely to have had substantially negative impacts on the industry, embodied in dozens of provisions in the new licensing regulation. Prominent among them would have been a new Coast Guard interpretation of the watchstanding requirements for towing vessels in ocean service which would have eliminated the ability to sail under a two-watch system. The regulation would have also established regulatory authority not founded in the statutes which conferred upon the Coast Guard the ability to establish manning levels on uninspected vessels.

An analysis of the Interim Final Rule provides substantial reassurance that both the major and minor imperfections in the licensing proposal have been corrected. Many AWO-suggested changes were adopted. Most importantly, the Interim Final Rule retreats from the previous Coast Guard positions on the questions of watchstanding for ocean towing vessels and Coast Guard manning authority over uninspected vessels. With some additional clarifications which AWO suggested earlier this year, the Interim Final Rule should emerge as a regulation which provides needed modernization to the licensing regime for U.S. mariners without doing violence to important and longstanding provisions of law and regulation which govern towing vessel operations.

In 1987, AWO was able to secure an appropriate epitaph for the Department of Transportation's Marine Safety Reporting Program (MSRP) by tenaciously insisting on an evaluation of the program by DOT which was candid and sustained by fact.

AWO pursued an effort to inject into the MSRP a real world perspective that would lead to the conclusion that the program was flawed in its concept and should not be continued under private sector sponsorship.

In late 1986, DOT released a draft evaluation report of the MSRP which essentially sought to conclude that the experimental program was a success. AWO took strong exception to DOT's draft conclusions, arguing that the evidence contained in the final report itself concluded that the MSRP was unneeded and ill conceived. AWO dissected the DOT draft report to unveil its fallacies; we shared with the Office of Management and Budget our conclusions that the MSRP addressed no demonstrated need and filled no safety promotion void.

On the weight of the AWO analysis, DOT released a revised final report in May 1987, which acknowledged that its draft report had been unduly optimistic. DOT cancelled the program. Had these results not been achieved, the MSRP concept could have developed into a misguided government program which imposed new burdens, but no benefits, on the marine industry.

AWO's analysis and advocacy in 1987 also took place on many other issues as well.

Nearly all of those agenda matters, and most of the issues dis- cussed in the foregoing paragraphs, are sure to again require the industry's attention in 1988. Moreover, it is already apparent that 1988 presents an agenda crowded with a wide range of issues that have serious and far-reaching implications for the industry. For example, the vapor emissions debate will continue to consume large portions of the industry's time and resources. AWO is poised to give detailed attention to the anticipated proposals of the Coast Guard to establish testing requirements for marine personnel in the Administration's pursuit of its drug and alcohol program. The Association is also committed to securing in 1988 a final and enduring resolution to the subject of tank barge pilotage. Achieving a rational implementation of Annex V, MARPOL 73/78, and assisting in the development of a regulation to decrease occupational exposure to benzene in the marine industry, also loom large on the 1988 horizon.

AWO welcomes the challenges and the opportunities which these issues present. The Association's analysis and advocacy on these matters substantially improves the likelihood of their successful resolution.

For each issue so addressed and resolved, one additional step is taken toward the ultimate objective of an environment of regulatory reason and stability. The process is ongoing, the issues are varied, the obstacles are many. The single constant is the objective.

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Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 18,  Mar 1988 Texas

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