Studds Acts On Maritime Reform Legislation Issues
Massachusetts Congressman Gerry E. Studds, chairman of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, has been actively pursuing resolutions on several maritime issues, including towing safety, clean water and fish conservation.
Towing Safety New legislation introduced by Sen. Studds — HR 4058, the Towing Safety Act — would abolish the operator's license and require towboats to be operated by licensed masters and, depending on size, carry up to three licensed mates. The bill would also require inspections of towing vessels that move oil and hazardous cargoes, and impose new licensing and staffing requirements on all towing vessels. Earlier this year, Sen. Studds, Rep. Billy Tauzin (D-La.), Rep. Jack Fields (R-Texas) and Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) introduced legislation to greatly increase requirements for navigational equipment these vessels must carry, and to require for the first time that operators demonstrate proficiency in the use of that equipment.
Sen. Studds stressed the necessity to require operators to demonstrate proficiency.
"These vessels should be inspected and those entrusted with operating them should be required to demonstrate that they can do so safely," he said.
The issue of towing safety has been brought very much into the public attention since the accident last year near Mobile, Ala. in which a barge hit a railroad bridge, knocking it out of alignment and allegedly causing Amtrak's Sunset Limited train to plunge into the bayou — a tragedy that resulted in 47 fatalities.
"Polluter Pays" Clean Water Funding Act In line with his emphasis on the safe operation of tows pulling barges laden with oil or other hazardous cargo, Sen.Studds spoke with more than 150 Clean Water Action community organizers from around the country, among hundreds drumming up support for his bill to provide $4 billion in revenues to fund clean water projects.
"This nation's commitment to clean water is very much in jeopardy over our inability to pay for it," said Sen. Studds. "To me it is only logical that we turn to those that are the source of the problem: the polluters." Sen. Studds' HR 2199, the "Polluter Pays" Clean Water Funding Act, would impose a tax on toxic discharges into water and industrial water use. To help control polluted run-off, the bill would tax fertilizers, pesticides and animal feed.
Marine Mammal Protection Act Re-Authorized The House passed Sen. Studds' Marine Mammal Protection Act Amendments of 1994 (HR 2760) on March 21 to re-authorize the Marine Mammal Protection Act for six years.
The Senate passed their own reauthorization, and differences between the two bills were being worked out at press time. The original bill was enacted in 1972 to prevent the taking of marine mammals in fishing operations.
The House bill would establish a program to manage interactions between the commercial fisheries and marine mammals.
For fisheries where incidental takes are possible, the bill provides authorization if vessels comply with monitoring and reporting requirements in the Act, and with plans to reduce takes.
The level of takes is dependent upon the numbers of a species necessary for a stable population. "Incidental take reduction teams" composed of fishermen, biologists, government, environmentalists, and others to work with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) would be established to develop take reduction plans.