Capital Report – March


BUILD Grants for Port Projects

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced $1.5 billion in discretionary grant funding to 91 projects in 49 states and the District of Columbia. The grants, 14 of which will go to port-related projects, are made through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Grants program and support road, rail, transit and port infrastructure projects nationwide. Port-related projects will receive a total of $229.23 million, or about 15.28 percent of the $1.5 billion awarded.

U.S. seaport cargo activity accounts for 26 percent of GDP, more than 23 million American jobs, and more than $320 billion annually in federal, state and local tax revenues.

Proposed Rule to Redefine ‘Waters of the US’

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have released a proposed rule redefining the term “waters of the United States” as applied under the Clean Water Act.

If finalized, the rule would replace the definition of “waters of the United States” adopted under 2015 Obama-era “WOTUS Rule,” which expanded federal control over several types of water bodies, particularly with respect to tributaries, adjacent waters and wetlands.

The 2015 WOTUS Rule has been subject to numerous legal challenges. As part of these challenges, a patchwork application of the rule has arisen in which its effectiveness has been stayed in 28 states, while the 2015 WOTUS Rule is in effect in 22 states.

NOAA Reports on US Fishing, Seafood Industries

NOAA has released the 11th Fisheries Economics of the United States report. In 2016, commercial and recreational saltwater fishing in the U.S. generated more than $212 billion in sales and contributed $100 billion to the country’s gross domestic product. These critical industries supported 1.7 million jobs.

According to the annual Fisheries of the United States report, fishing and seafood consumption increased in 2017, with landings and value of U.S. fisheries continuing a strong, positive trend. Across the nation, American fishermen landed 9.9 billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2017, while the U.S. imported 5.9 billion pounds of seafood, up 1.6 percent, according to the report.

The U.S. aquaculture industry produced $1.5 billion in 2016—the most recent year aquaculture data is available—an increase from 1.4 billion in 2015.

Congress Members Pressure Trump on Climate Change

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), ranking member of the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Environment Subcommittee, and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), vice ranking member of the committee, led 96 members in urging President Trump to heed the dire warnings in the second volume of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA) and act on climate change.

“Rather than ignoring the important findings of the NCA, we request that you reconsider maintaining the nation’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and fully implement and enforce the Clean Power Plan, fuel economy standards, methane emission controls, and safeguards for clean air and clean water,” the letter says.

“We urge you to recognize the value of the NCA as a collaborative, peer-reviewed effort across federal agencies compiled by the nation’s top scientists, and take seriously the grave warnings of the NCA by immediately enacting meaningful policies to protect the environment.”

Record Offshore Wind Auction For Massachusetts

The latest offshore wind lease sale offered approximately 390,000 acres offshore Massachusetts for potential wind energy development and drew competitive winning bids from three companies totaling approximately $405 million. If fully developed, the areas could support approximately 4.1 GW of commercial wind generation, enough to power nearly 1.5 million homes.

The provisional winners are Equinor Wind US LLC, Mayflower Wind Energy LLC and Vineyard Wind LLC.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management now has 15 active wind leases.

Grants for Infrastructure

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the second round of the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program, The INFRA program is expected to make approximately $855 million to $902.5 million, subject to funding provided by fiscal year 2019 appropriations, available to projects that are in line with the administration’s principles to help rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure.

The INFRA program also aims to increase the total investment by state, local and private partners. INFRA advances a grant program established in the FAST Act of 2015 and utilizes criteria that let DOT evaluate projects to align them with national and regional economic vitality goals and to leverage additional nonfederal funding. The program will increase the impact of projects by incentivizing project sponsors to pursue innovative strategies, including public-private partnerships. Additionally, the new program promotes the incorporation of innovative technology that will improve the transportation system.

DOT will make awards under the INFRA program to both large and small projects.