House approves Coast Guard authorization bill

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House of Representatives has passed a two-year authorization of the Coast Guard’s budget which includes a number of provisions important to South Jersey, according to Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo.

LoBiondo is chairman of the House Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Subcommittee.

The Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Act of 2012 authorizes $8.6 billion for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 and $8.7 billion for FY 2014. It would also reform Coast Guard administration while improving operations and reducing inefficiencies by consolidating reporting requirements on Coast Guard acquisitions; mandating performance milestones prior to acquisition of new assets; and, repealing out-of-date authorities deemed unnecessary by the Service, LoBiondo said in a press release.

LoBiondo previously led the effort to eliminate discrepancies in benefits between members of the Coast Guard and members of the Armed Services, including in the areas of expanded child care services, improved housing, chaplain-led family programs, enhanced retention and medical travel reimbursement. The bill builds on those efforts by making several other changes that will give the Coast Guard and its personnel greater parity with the Department of Defense, said LoBiondo. It also requires the Coast Guard to report to Congress on the condition of service member housing – a significant issue for those stationed at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May.

“Better housing for members of the Coast Guard continues to be a high priority for me and those stationed in Cape May,” said LoBiondo. “While the Coast Guard has been hesitant to dedicate the necessary resources, it remains unacceptable that our service men and women and their families are forced to live in outdated, substandard and sometimes nearly dilapidated housing. I continue to explore available options that will assist the Coast Guard in making the right choice for our service members.”

The legislation also delays the deadline on dockside examinations for commercial fishing vessels to the standards and timeframes of other sea-worthy vessels. Under current law, all 35,000 commercial fishing vessels in the United States were required to be inspected by the Coast Guard by Oct. 15 or they would not be able to leave the dock. Given the Coast Guard’s public statements that it would not be able to meet the deadline, this legislation pushes the deadline to 2015 while extending the license’s validity from two to five years.

H.R. 2838 also delays the implementation of EPA regulations that could leave fishermen on the hook for over $36,000 in daily fines if they fail to get a permit to discharge such things as rain water runoff and air conditioner condensate from their vessels, said LoBiondo.

“In South Jersey, commercial fishing operations have long been one of the leading employers, making Cape May the second-largest port by commercial value on the East Coast,” said LoBiondo.

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