October 21, 2022

Bipartisan T&I Committee Leaders Demand Answers from Biden Administration on “Novel and Problematic” Jones Act Waiver

Washington, DC – Today Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO), Chair of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Salud Carbajal (D-CA), and Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Ranking Member Bob Gibbs (R-OH) wrote to the Secretary of Homeland Security and Secretary of Transportation expressing concern with the Jones Act waivers issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the delivery of fuel to Puerto Rico by foreign vessels. 
“We write to express our concerns and disappointment with your recent decision to grant Jones Act waivers for the delivery of fuel to Puerto Rico including to allow the delivery of diesel that was sourced from the mainland United States by British Petroleum Products North America (BPPNA) to Puerto Rico on a foreign vessel on September 28, 2022," the representatives said. “We concur with the Maritime Administration (MARAD) that consideration of a waiver while a vessel is already underway is ‘novel and problematic’ and would like to better understand the reasoning for your decision to issue a waiver for a company that appeared to be gaming the Jones Act waiver process.” 
The representatives continued by questioning how DHS disregarded waiver requirements: “Moreover, the question of availability was not intended to be answered in retrospect; the statute is intended to be a prospective evaluation to give U.S.-flag ships the first opportunity to move the goods, without the need to waive the law. We do not understand how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), either independently or acting through MARAD, made a retroactive determination that no U.S.-flag vessels could have performed the move for which the waiver was granted—and did so on the day the waiver was granted.” 
The representatives concluded their letter by requesting written answers on (1) how DHS issued the waiver despite not following requirements, (2) the legal justification for performing a retroactive vessel availability assessment, (3) why the shipment was made when reports indicate the island had adequate fuel supplies, (4) if DHS had considered if the waiver was requested for disaster arbitrage purposes, and (5) why the waiver was needed in the interest of national defense. 
The full letter can be found here