Monthly Federal Legislative & Regulatory Reports

IANA tracks important legislative and regulatory issues that affect the intermodal freight transportation industry. The status of these issues will be added as needed.

Legislative

Senate Passes Bill to Repurpose Unspent COVID-19 Relief for Infrastructure Projects
THUD Appropriations Bill Introduced in Senate
President Biden Signs Law Extending Surface Transportation Funding

Regulatory

White House Council on Environmental Quality Proposes Reversal of Trump-Era Permitting Rules

On October 6, the White House Council on Environmental Quality issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to reverse several Trump Administration regulations on the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act. In 2020, the Trump White House issued a final rule aimed at expediting the infrastructure permitting process that limited the timeline and scope of NEPA reviews. CEQ’s proposal would restore the NEPA rules to the regulations that had previously been in effect since 1978. The Biden Administration asserts these changes will support timely project delivery as the permitting decisions under the previous, more stringent NEPA review requirements are less likely to be delayed by legal challenges.

The proposed rule would make several significant changes to the NEPA regulations. First, the changes would allow federal agencies to tailor NEPA procedures beyond CEQ’s regulations to meet the specific needs of their agencies, the public, and stakeholders. The revisions would also give federal agencies greater flexibility to evaluate the “purpose and need” of a proposed action, focusing on the public interest rather than the project applicant’s goals. In contrast, the 2020 NEPA regulations limited agencies’ ability to work with communities to develop and consider alternative designs or approaches that could minimize environmental or public health costs. Moreover, CEQ’s proposed rule restores the requirement that federal agencies evaluate the “direct and indirect effects” and “cumulative impacts” of a proposed decision, which include consideration of long-term and geographically remote effects and impacts. The 2020 rules eliminated references to the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts.

The changes proposed by CEQ are the first phase of a two-pronged approach by the White House to reevaluate the 2020 NEPA regulations. The Biden Administration also announced that CEQ is currently working on the second set of revisions to NEPA regulations intended to increase public involvement in the environmental review process and address climate change and environmental justice issues.

Comments on CEQ’s proposed rulemaking are due November 22, 2021.

FMC VOCC Audit Team, NSAC Seek to Address Detention and Demurrage

On October 15, the Federal Maritime Commission’s Vessel-Operating Common Carrier Audit team sent a letter to 25 container lines and the World Shipping Council urging ocean carriers to adopt three common best practices related to detention and demurrage.

The first of the team’s recommendations urges ocean carriers to display detention and demurrage charges clearly and prominently on their webpage or customer portal. FMC also suggests that carriers develop and document clear internal processes on all matters related to detention and demurrage. Finally, ocean carriers should clearly delineate dispute resolution procedures, contacts, and required documentation on their website and invoices. According to the audit team, these best practices are intended to promote clarity and certainty about how and when fees are assessed and the procedures for challenging disputed charges.

FMC’s National Shippers Advisory Committee also addressed detention and demurrage charges at its inaugural meeting, held on October 27. During the meeting, FMC Chairman Maffei stated he hopes the NSAC will address strategies to increase cargo fluidity through technology and data sharing; whether FMC’s current actions related to detention and demurrage charges have been helpful; service contracts; how FMC can address gaps in knowledge for shippers; and how actions of other federal agencies might be harmful or beneficial.

Committee members voiced support for increased visibility and data sharing across links in the supply chain to improve intermodal alignment between ports, terminals, rail, and carriers. They stressed that interconnectivity between systems creates predictability and allows shippers to proactively plan and balance demand more efficiently. Additionally, NSAC members identified chassis shortages, gate fluidity, and truck driver shortages as major issues causing disruptions in the supply chain.

Finally, members agreed that the NSAC must seek long-term solutions, acknowledging that the current supply chain problems predate the COVID-19 pandemic. The Committee aims to address the root causes of these problems and implement sustained strategies that allow the supply chain to adjust over time.