AWO And Federal Asgencies

Promoting Partnership And Sound Public Policy The continuing debate between Congress and the administration over the proper role of federal regulatory agencies probably won't be settled in any significant sense until after the fall elections — and maybe not even then. In the meantime, the American Waterways Operators has adopted a proactive stance in its advocacy efforts with agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency the primary regulatory agencies which impact the barge and towing industry. In a nutshell, AWO's approach has focused on a dual objective: reducing unnecessary and burdensome regulatory mandates and eliminating governmental impediments to the efficiency of industry operations; and, at the same time, working in partnership with government to eliminate substandard operations and promote needed improvements in marine safety and environmental protection. The objective is to make AWO the "lead advocate" in promoting constructive regulatory changes in a manner that reflects the association's five-year strategic plan, AWO 2000, which calls for a more dynamic and creative approach to AWO's dealings with the federal government.

AWO's regulatory strategy, which is premised on the view that both industry and government have a role to play in ensuring marine safety and that government regulation must be judiciously deployed and carefully targeted to address genuine deficiencies, is finding a receptive audience in a USCG increasingly beset by resource constraints and directed by its own strategic business plan to focus on achieving results, not just issuing regulatory mandates. In fact, the administration's "regulatory reinvention" initiative, unveiled by President Clinton in a March 1995 memorandum to the heads of all Executive Branch departments and agencies, reinforced this theme, calling on agencies to "cut obsolete regulations," "reward results, not red tape," and promote freer and more extensive dialogue between government and the regulated community.

AWO's efforts to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens on the barge and towing industry produced several recent successes.

The USCG formally withdrew a proposal in April 1995 to classify coal, wood chips, sawdust, and other bulk solid cargoes carried by barges as "potentially dangerous materials" subject to onerous special handling requirements. AWO had vigorously opposed the agency proposal, arguing that applying the proposed requirements to unmanned barges would impose unnecessary operational, administrative, and economic burdens on barge transporters of coal and other "potentially dangerous" materials, with no meaningful improvement in vessel or crew safety. In withdrawing the proposed rule, the USCG acknowledged the need to better target its regulatory activities, noting that the proposed rule was not a sufficiently high priority to warrant the continued expenditure of agency resources.

AWO's advocacy was also instrumental in convincing the USCG not to pursue a requirement for the installation of devices aimed at detecting leaks from vessel cargo tanks while the vessel is underway. AWO urged the USCG not to require the installation of devices which both industry and USCG studies have shown to be unreliable. The association emphasized the significant technological difficulties associated with tank level or pressure monitoring devices and the flexibility afforded the agency by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90), which requires the USCG to establish technical standards for such devices but does not mandate their use. Last August, the USCG issued proposed regulations which reflect the approach urged by AWO, and signaled its inclination not to proceed at this time with a requirement that underway leak detection devices be installed on tankers or tank barges.

AWO's efforts to promote operational feasibility and economic soundness in the USCG's implementation of OPA 90 also produced positive results in the form of an agency proposal last November that established interim operational requirements for large, single- hulled tank barges scheduled for phaseout under the OPA. An earlier proposal, issued in October 1993, called for significant structural modifications, despite the limited lifespan of affected vessels and substantial evidence that the technical assumptions underlying the proposed requirements were flawed. AWO had argued strongly that operational measures, including enhanced crew training and vessel maintenance procedures, would be more cost-effective than structural changes, while at the same time doing more to prevent casualties that might lead to oil spills. In November 1995, the USCG adopted this approach in its revised regulatory proposal.

AWO's recent efforts have also produced notable results in the association's drive to work in partnership with the USCG to upgrade agency guidelines and regulations in several key areas. For example, in April 1995, after nearly 17 years of development, the USCG issued new regulations governing the qualifications and training of tankermen and persons in charge of dangerous liquid or liquefied gas cargo transfers. AWO had strongly advocated the issuance of more rigorous standards for tankermen as a necessary complement to increasingly stringent corporate policies aimed at reducing the incidence of tank barge transfer spills, which overwhelmingly results from human error.

AWO's efforts to promote higher standards of personnel competence among towing vessel crews were also reflected in the issuance of a new USCG Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC), providing voluntary guidance for the training of entry-level barge and towing industry personnel. AWO worked closely with the eongressionally authorized Towing Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC) to develop training guidelines designed to enhance workplace safety and reduce the incidence of injuries suffered by towing vessel crews.

Last November, the joint efforts of AWO, TSAC, and the USCG to improve navigational safety on towing vessels culminated in the publication of proposed regulations flit establishing more s t r i n g e n t navigation equipment r e q u i r e - ments for t o w i n g v e s s e l s . Both AWO and the USCG had r e c o m - mended implementation of the tougher standards in the wake of the September 1993 Amtrak derailment. The proposed rule would establish by regulation the navigation equipment requirements proposed in the 103rd Congress by former House USCG and Navigation Subcommittee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and current USCG and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Howard Coble (RN. C.). This move marked the third in a series of efforts by the USCG and TSAC to upgrade regulatory requirements for towing vessels. This effort to upgrade marine safety standards began in early 1994 with strong support from AWO. Two other elements of the initiative include the publication of more stringent requirements for reporting marine casualties, which was accomplished in late 1994, and new radar training requirements for towing vessel operators. A fourth proposal, calling for more rigorous licensing rules for towing vessel operators, should be issued this spring.

Anticipating Future Challenges AWO 2000, the association's fiveyear strategic plan, makes clear that AWO's success in the advocacy arena requires anticipating future issue challenges and working proactively to meet them. In the regulatory arena, the agreement last September to pursue a formal Safety Partnership with the USCG is indicative of the association's efforts to lend a more productive, constructive focus to its involvement with federal agencies. The Safety Partnership calls on USCG and barge and towing industry […]

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