Marine Energy resources, including raw feedstocks and finished products, can also move via a variety of marine assets that include vessels, off- and on-loading facilities at ports, and adjacent marine terminals. On the U.S. West Coast, Tesoro Logistics maintains an active fleet of tankers and barges as well as four marine terminals with handling capacity of 795 million barrels per day. These marine assets work collectively to move energy products between Tesoro’s West Coast refineries.
An aspect of America’s marine infrastructure that is under-appreciated is the degree to which ports and their related inland waterways serving some of our refineries are regularly dredged to enable maritime traffic to be safely and freely moved. This essential work is paid for, in part, by a federal user fee for coastal ports and harbors – the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT).
The HMT is levied on the value of imported goods and was directed by Congress to cover 100 percent of the cost to operate and maintain our nation’s deep draft and coastal waterways. However, since 2003, HMT collections have greatly exceeded funds actually spent (appropriated) for domestic harbor maintenance. This has fueled a large and growing “surplus” in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF). In 2014, for example, while approximately $1.6 billion was collected via the HMT and deposited in the HMTF, only $979 million was actually spent on America’s waterways. It is estimated that as federal fiscal year 2016 began, the surplus of HMTF collections over expenditures was approximately $8.5 billion. Rather than being used for their intended purpose, these user fees are being diverted for other federal activities.
In 2014, legislation was enacted to address this diversion and to establish an orderly spending plan of HMTF revenue for the future. The Water Resources and Reform Development Act of 2014 established annual incremental funding targets so that by fiscal year 2025, HMTF revenues must be fully utilized for their intended purpose – the operation and maintenance of America’s deepwater ports and waterways. This additional revenue will be directed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ use, and should significantly expand the scope and pace of dredging that is currently underfunded. It will be up to the stakeholders paying into the HMTF to ensure that Congress does not deviate from the intent of this new law.