Government Affairs

CAPT Diehl Attends President’s Energy and Infrastructure Order Signing

CAPT Diehl was invited to witness President Trump’s executive order of two energy and infrastructure signing at the International Training and Education Center for the International Union of Operating Engineers in Crosby, April 10th.

One of Trump’s executive orders allows the Environmental Protection Agency to consult with states, tribes and others before issuing new guidance and rules for states on how to comply with the Clean Water Act. The Trump administration wants to ensure that state actions follow the intent of the Clean Water Act. Under a section of the law, companies must get certification from the state before moving ahead with an energy project.

The order also directs the transportation secretary to propose a rule allowing liquefied natural gas to be shipped in approved rail tank cars and directs the labor secretary to review whether investment fund managers who invest based on social goals are fulfilling their responsibility to maximize shareholder returns.

The second executive order is designed to ease the process for energy projects that cross international borders. Currently, the secretary of state has the authority to issue permits for cross-border infrastructure such as pipelines. The executive order now allows the president to make that decision on whether to issue such permits.

The Outcome of the Senate Select Committee Meeting on March 6th for Texas Ports

Photo: Steve Kean, Capt Mark Mitchem, Jim Teague and Ric Campo

On March 6, Ric Campo, chairman of the Port of Houston Authority (PHA) , and Jim Teague, CEO of the general partner of Enterprise Products Partners L.P., and Steve Kean, CEO of Kinder Morgan, Inc members of the Coalition for a Fair and Open Port, provided testimony in the Senate Select Committee on Texas Ports. The committee is chaired by Senator Brandon Creighton. The testimony provided input on the economic impact that inland waterways and coastal ports have on the state’s economy as well as providing an update on the recent port activity.

Additional testimony was also provided by Capt. Mark Mitchem, presiding officer of the Houston Pilots regarding moving bigger container ships safely around tankers.

Currently the US Army Corps of Engineers is in the fourth and last year of a $10 million study examining whether it would be feasible to deepen and widen the Houston Ship Channel. It could be just an incremental step in a years-long process while current two-way traffic interruptions continue.

Both the PHA and the Coalition agree the ultimate solution
is widening the of the 530-foot-wide channel to at least 750-800 feet to accommodate existing two-way traffic that includes larger container ships. However, such a project would cost billions of dollars and require Congress to provide federal funds – which can take years, if not decades.

As the result of the testimonies, the Texas Legislature created multiple pending bills that could limit or block arrivals of larger container ships, as well as address what the Coalition sees as a conflict of interest with the port authority’s dual role as owner of the container terminals – benefiting from their cash flow – and regulator of the entire channel.

Senate Pending Bills:
SB 2221 – Relating to the powers and duties of the Port of Houston Authority of Harris County, TX
SB 2222 – Relating to the board of pilot commissioners for Harris County ports.
SB 2223 – Relating to the safe and efficient provision of pilot services by the Board of Pilot Commissioners for Harris County Ports.

SB 1915 – Relating to navigation districts.

House Pending Bills:
HB 4434 -Relating to navigation districts.
HB 4436 -Relating to the board of pilot commissioners for Harris County ports.
HB 4438 -Relating to the powers and duties of the Port of Houston Authority of Harris County, TX
HB 4445 -Relating to the safe and efficient provision of pilot services by the Board of Pilot Commissioners for Harris County Ports.

PHA Commissioners Set Limits on Large Container Ships on the Houston Channel

On April 8th, the Commissions at the Port of Houston Authority (PHA) voted on a resolution to imposed limits on large container ships calling on the Houston Ship Channel. The resolution limits traffic for large vessels that require one-way traffic limitations on the ship channel approach from Galveston Bay to once a week. For ships over 1,096 ft, the Houston Pilots require one-way traffic for safe transport.

Port of Houston Authority operates container terminal facilities at Barbours Cut and Bayport. Their container business has grown in tandem with the widening of the Panama Canal and has begun handling larger container ships that caused channel pilots to restrict flows to one-way traffic.

The Coalition for a Fair and Open Port (compromised by energy firms), executive director Vincent DiCosimo thought it was a step in the right direction. However, the group felt a permanent two-way traffic solution codified at the state level was still needed. The larger container ships disrupted ship channel traffic and interrupted the energy firms to bring tankers through the channel (petrochemical ships can only move during daylight hours).

  • Date April 25, 2019
  • Tags 2019 March/April