AWO Letter - December 20, 2023

AWO Releases Year-End 2023 Impact Report. As 2023 comes to a close, AWO has released an updated version of our organizational impact report. The report highlights the major wins and steady progress on long-term issues and challenges AWO members and staff delivered together throughout the year, from advocacy to safety to public affairs and beyond. From all of us at AWO, thank you for a fantastic year! We look forward to continuing to serve as the tugboat, towboat and barge industry’s advocate, resource and united voice for safe, sustainable and efficient transportation on America’s waterways, oceans and coasts. Working together, we get hard things done!
AWO President & CEO Featured in Maritime Executive Interview. AWO President & CEO Jennifer Carpenter is featured on the cover of the latest issue of Maritime Executive. In her interview, which begins on page 46, Jennifer discusses opportunities and challenges facing our industry, the diversity of AWO’s membership, the industry’s journey of safety leadership, and more. “I’m really bullish on the future,” Jennifer told MarEx. “Our industry has never been more relevant.”
AWO Submits Comments on VIDA Rulemaking. On December 18, AWO submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) for the national vessel incidental discharge performance standards. The goal of the SNPRM was to clarify language from the 2020 proposed rule and update the proposed requirements based on public comments and new information. In our comments, AWO thanked EPA for adopting the recommendation we made in our 2020 comment letter to exempt new vessels over 400 gross tons from the graywater treatment or retention requirements if the vessel is certified to carry and has overnight accommodations for fewer than 15 people. We also reiterated AWO’s previous recommendation that vessels that uptake and discharge ballast water exclusively in the same location should be exempt from the numeric ballast water discharge standard. AWO expressed support for EPA’s proposal to require vessel operators to address ballast water uptake practices in their ballast water management plans (BWMPs), but encouraged EPA to ensure that BWMPs may be developed and implemented flexibly. Finally, AWO urged EPA to reject two arguments made by other commenters, including states and environmental groups: 1) that the agency should impose a more stringent, scientifically unsound numeric ballast water discharge standard; and, 2) that EPA does not have the legal authority to regulate (and therefore preempt states from regulating) biofouling discharges. By consent decree, EPA is legally required to submit its final rule no later than September 23, 2024, after which the U.S. Coast Guard will begin developing the associated implementation and enforcement standards. If you have any questions, please contact Leah Harnish.
AMP Debunks Flawed Petroleum Price Study that Blamed the Jones Act. The American Maritime Partnership (AMP), the domestic maritime coalition AWO plays a leading role in, recently identified a fatal flaw in the assumptions used in an economic study that blames the Jones Act for adding $0.003 to $0.018 per gallon to the cost of gasoline in East Coast markets. In comparing the costs of Jones Act-compliant vessels to foreign-flag vessels, the private research firm National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) incorrectly assumed that foreign tankers could operate in domestic commerce without complying with other U.S. laws including income tax, immigration, wage and hour, employment, and other laws. NBER’s failure to include those factors is even more dubious given that two government agencies, the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the U.S. International Trade Commission have noted that any cost comparison would have to consider the added costs to operate foreign vessels in compliance with other U.S. laws.
AWO Members Honored at River Bell Awards. On December 7, AWO members Jerry Clower, President, Harbor Towing and Fleeting Services, and Darin Adrian, President – River Division, Marquette Transportation Company, were honored at the 2023 Seamen’s Church Institute River Bell Awards. Mr. Adrian received the River Bell Award, while Mr. Clower was honored with the River Legend Award. Longtime industry partner RADM Richard Timme, U.S. Coast Guard (retired) received the Distinguished Service Award, and the crews of American Commercial Barge Line’s M/V Mike Sanders, Amherst Madison Inc.’s M/V Mary Ellen Jones, and Parker Towing Company’s M/V San D were honored with Lifesaving Awards. Congratulations to all of this year’s awardees – you make us proud!
New Sustainability Graphic Highlights CO2 Emissions Avoided since 2005. AWO has developed a new graphic, below, depicting our industry’s proactivity in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The industry has avoided more than 1.1 million tons of carbon emissions since 2005 due to increases in engine efficiency and reductions in fuel consumption. Consistent with the recommendations of the Sustainability Task Force, AWO will be deploying this graphic to help tell the industry’s positive story as the most sustainable mode of freight transportation to government stakeholders, the media and the public.
AWO PAC Corner
AWO PAC and Inside ElectionsAWO PAC has partnered with Inside Elections for another special edition, featuring an overview of key House races. 
AWO PAC is the connected political action committee for The American Waterways Operators and serves as the trade association’s separate segregated fund. As a trade association, AWO is prohibited from using general treasury funds or membership dues to make federal contributions. AWO is one of the most effective advocacy associations in Washington, DC, and relies on voluntary personal contributions to fund AWO PAC.

AWO PAC supports federal candidates who are champions of the U.S. tugboat, towboat and barge industry and who are leaders on issues important to our industry. AWO PAC is dedicated to protecting AWO members’ investments in the safest, most environmentally responsible and most economical mode of freight transportation and safeguarding the integrity of the Jones Act to protect the bottom lines of our members. AWO PAC may solicit contributions from individuals of a member company once the member representative gives AWO written prior approval.

AWO Urges Changes to Illinois Paid Leave for All Workers Act. In March, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Paid Leave For All Workers Act into law. Effective on January 1, 2024, the law will require private employers to provide up to 40 hours of paid leave in a 12-month period to Illinois employees to be used “for any purpose.” The law applies to companies that have their base of operations, a regional office, or headquarters in Illinois and employees whose work is primarily performed in Illinois; out of state companies who have remote employees living in Illinois; or companies based out of state or in-state who have employees that primarily perform work in Illinois.
AWO submitted public comments noting that while the intent of the law is to provide security for Illinois employees who need to take time off, it does not consider the unique operations of the maritime industry. While railroad workers, other transportation employees, and construction workers are exempt from this rule if they are covered by a Collective Bargaining Agreement, there is no specific mention of, or exemption for, maritime workers. Additionally, the Illinois Department of Labor will be defining work “primarily performed in Illinois” during its formal comment period, a term which is ambiguous as currently written. Though the law takes effect January 1, no employee may take PTO under the law until March 31, 2024 or ninety days after beginning employment. AWO will be working to secure changes to the law when the Illinois legislature reconvenes in 2024 and, in the meantime, to minimize negative impacts on maritime employers through the regulatory process. If you have any questions, please contact Justin Lampert or Kyle Burleson.
Corps Hosts Brandon Road Open House and Quarterly Update. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hosted a public open house and tour at Brandon Road on December 5 to give stakeholders an opportunity to review and discuss the design and construction stages of the Brandon Road Interbasin Project (BRIP), and on December 7 the Corps held its winter quarterly update. AWO participated in both events, during which no new information about the BRIP was shared. The state of Illinois, the non-federal sponsor of the BRIP, still has not signed the Project Partnership Agreement (PPA) with the Corps, and construction cannot begin until the PPA is signed.
Washington State Agency Releases Tug-Escort Analysis. In a new report, the Washington Department of Ecology shared the findings of its recent study of the tug-escort requirements for vessels moving petroleum products, highlighting the important safety role of the maritime sector and noting the minimal probability of drift groundings and release of oil in Puget Sound. The Board of Pilotage Commissioners is required to promulgate a final rule by December 31, 2025, and AWO will continue to advocate for a final decision that is rooted in accurate data. More information can be found here.
Ecology also released a report evaluating potential emergency response towing vessel locations using an oil spill risk model, which can be found here.
White House Releases Snake River Dam Agreement. The White House has released an agreement between the U.S. Government and environmental non-profits, tribes and other parties calling for a 10-year pause in litigation in return for additional funding to restore native fish in the Columbia River Basin, the development of 1 to 3 gigawatts of tribal-sponsored clean energy, increased flexibility in dam operations to benefit fish populations, and undertaking studies of dam services if Congress decides to breach the dams at some point. The agreement came as the current judicial stay expired on December 15.
The White House acknowledged that dam breaching is the purview of Congress and explicitly does not call for breaching; however, the agreement could clear the way for future dam breaching by attempting to replace some of the services that the dams currently provide. The agreement calls for “increased flexibility” in dam operations, which could impact navigation flows, and continued advocacy will be needed to avoid such impacts. AWO will continue working with coalition partners to emphasize to Congress the importance of the Snake River Dams to navigation and to the economy of the entire Columbia Snake River System.
BOEM Announces Proposed Central Atlantic Offshore Wind Leases. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has issued a proposed lease sale for two offshore wind leases in the Central Atlantic off the coasts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The two lease areas, comprising nearly 300,000 acres, have the potential to power more than 2.2 million homes and have been chosen from a much larger area initially considered. AWO successfully advocated for the removal of many areas that could interfere with navigation safety and will continue to engage with the leasing process in the Central Atlantic to ensure that offshore wind development does not compromise the safety of maritime operations. Comments on the proposal will be accepted until February 12, 2024.
ICYMI: Check Out the December Issue of the AWO Safety Newsletter. The latest edition of Navigating to Zero, AWO’s Safety and Sustainability Newsletter, includes a review of AWO safety in 2023, recognizes recent American Waterways HERO Award recipients, and highlights an opportunity to apply for the Coast Guard’s Benkert Award recognizing outstanding achievement in protecting the marine environment. In addition, the newsletter outlines maritime transportation topics covered at COP28, previews the February 21-22 Safety Committee Meeting in New Orleans, gives tips for staying safe in cold weather, shares High Value Near Misses, summarizes recent NTSB publications and NTSB Investigations, and more!
Read these stories and more in the November NTZ and please be sure to send in your SSRP reports for the 3rd quarter of 2023, as well as your High Value Near Misses, and recognize your crew's HEROic acts!