From Bloomberg Government: Conferees Close in on WRDA Deal

Conferees Close in on WRDA Deal

By Derek Wallbank

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer said she’s “very optimistic” about prospects for an agreement on the water-resources bill, H.R. 3080.

It would be the first water infrastructure measure enacted since 2007, and has been endorsed by both Tea Party Republicans and by Democrats as way to boost exports by lowering shipping costs.

Boxer is chairman of the conference committee, which met formally for the first time today. The conferees didn’t say when they planned to reach a deal on the bill, though House leaders have said a final measure could come to the floor by the end of the year.

The House and Senate measures are largely similar, and would streamline environmental review processes in ways broadly opposed by environmental groups.

The bills differ on how they would authorize dredging, environmental restoration and flood control projects, as well as how to address projects that won’t have completed Chief of Engineers reports until after a WRDA bill is enacted.

A possible flash point largely overlooked during the passage of both bills is a National Endowment for the Oceans that would be established under the Senate-passed bill. The fund could be used to combat climate change as it impacts the oceans, including ocean acidification and both temperature and sea level increases.

Shipping companies including Maersk Inc., manufacturers like Caterpillar Inc. and Deere & Co ., and industry groups for grain, apparel, iron and steel were among those who signed a U.S. Chamber of Commerce letter supporting the bill.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, said he was confident “we can resolve our differences and achieve a successful conference report.”