Letter to the U.S. Senate on H.R. 2354, the "Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012"
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE:
As the U.S. Senate prepares to consider H.R. 2354, the “Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region urges you to consider the following recommendations.
The marine transportation system is an integral, energy-efficient, and environmentally sustainable part of the national freight network and global supply chains. Waterborne cargo and the associated activities contribute more than $649 billion annually to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, which sustains more than 13 million jobs. Inadequate improvements and insufficient investment in the marine transportation system threatens its ability to support domestic economic development, interstate commerce, international trade, and future growth.
The Chamber urges the Senate to continue its commitment to the Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) Civil Works Program by maintaining funding at FY 2011 levels or greater. The Civil Works Program needs adequate and reliable funding levels, ideally matched to the Army Corps’ programmatic capabilities and targeted to the navigation and flood protection business lines.
The Chamber strongly urges the Senate to make all annual revenues deposited into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which provides funding for critical harbor and channel maintenance dredging, available to the Army Corps for their intended purposes. The President’s budget requested only $758 million of the estimated $1.5 billion in receipts and collections for FY 2012 be appropriated for maintenance dredging. As the maintenance backlog continues to grow, the Army Corps reports that authorized channel depths and widths are only available onethird of the time, which negatively affects the ability to move goods to domestic and international markets.
Furthermore, to help improve project delivery, the Senate should permit the Army Corps to reprogram federal funds and enter into continuing contracts for critical projects consistent with congressional and administrative priorities, within an appropriate framework.
The Chamber also supports an amendment that may be offered to this legislation by Sen. Barrasso and Sen. Heller that could bar the Army Corps from using appropriated funds to change the existing regulatory definition of the “waters of the United States” that the Army Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) use to assert Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction. EPA and the Army Corps have proposed using the artifice of administrative “guidance” to expand federal control over private lands contrary to the CWA’s explicit rovisions, Congressional intent and controlling Supreme Court precedent. EPA and the Army Corps have repeatedly failed to convince Congress and the courts to expand the bureaucracy’s reach. Efforts by the EPA and Congress to assert authority by guidance grossly violates all of the critical constitutional, statutory and prudential boundaries that cabin administrative agencies. Further, EPA has failed to seriously calculate and address the employment and economic development cost of their administrative over-reach. The Barrasso-Heller Amendment would prevent these agencies from exceeding the limits of their legal authority.
The Chamber supports efforts to accelerate or expand the federal Energy Savings Performance Contracting (ESPC) program, a severely underutilized $80 billion program that uses private sector money to achieve energy savings in Federal buildings while creating jobs. Under the ESPC program, private-sector energy service companies install new energy efficient equipment at Federal facilities at no upfront cost to the government; Federal agencies pay off this investment over time with the funds saved on utility costs, and the private sector contractors guarantee the savings. At a time when there is a critical need for reduced government spending, ensuring the availability of mechanisms to save energy in Federal buildings at no upfront cost to the government is good policy.
The Chamber supports enhanced transparency of payments made under the Judgment Fund, a permanent, indefinite appropriation that now pays for damages, attorney’s fees and related costs for most court judgments against Federal agencies, compromise settlements, or settlements by agencies even when a lawsuit is not filed. Disbursements from the Judgment Fund are neither attributed to nor accounted for by the agencies whose activities give rise to awards paid, and, absent a specific statutory requirement, agencies are responsible for reimbursement. Transparency of payments made under the Judgment Fund is consistent with an open, honest government.
The Chamber appreciates your consideration of these recommendations.
R. Bruce Josten