that the Secretary must inform those paying the levy that they could "expect no increase in the quantity, quality, or variety of services the person receives from the Coast Guard as a result of that payment." 46 U.S.C. § 2110(b)(5).
Congress does not appear to have been as concerned about the Coast Guard's fees under § 2110(b), perhaps because the Secretary's discretion under the statute is limited by the graduated fee structure.
Defendant also correctly notes that Congress explicitly made § 9701 applicable to § 2110(a) and not to § 2110(b). Although the draft legislation sent to Congress by the Secretary made the recreational fee in § 2110(b) subject to § 9701, Congress removed the recreational fee from the scope of § 9701. Furthermore, the requirement in § 664 that the Coast Guard calculate and justify the value of each service provided is more applicable to direct fees rather than to indirect fees. Because indirect fees essentially compensate for the costs of a large percentage of Coast Guard operations, a justification of each service would involve an annual and redundant recalculation and re-explanation of general Coast Guard expenditures.
Neither the language of the statute nor the legislative history indicate that Congress intended or expected the Coast Guard to set the fees below the statutory ceilings. Plaintiffs' confidence that Congress "would have intended the Coast Guard to set the fees at less than the maximums", lacks any factual underpinning. See Plaintiffs' Response at 29.
In questions concerning rulemaking, the Court should give great deference to the interpretation adopted by the agency charged with administering the statute. See e.g. Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. 467 U.S. 837, 843, 81 L. Ed. 2d 694, 104 S. Ct. 2778 (1984); see also Watt v. Alaska, 451 U.S. 259, 265, 68 L. Ed. 2d 80, 101 S. Ct. 1673 (1981). Based on the statutory framework, the Coast Guard determined that it was appropriate to levy the maximum fee. The record indicates, and plaintiffs do not contest, that the Coast Guard expended considerable effort to enlist public comment. See Florida Power & Light Co. v. U.S., 269 U.S. App. D.C. 377, 846 F.2d 765, 771 (D.C. Cir. 1988) cert. denied 490 U.S. 1045, 104 L. Ed. 2d 422, 109 S. Ct. 1952 (1989) (user fee upheld once adequate time was provided for comments and sufficient factual detail made public to permit interested parties to comment meaningfully). The Coast Guard was not obliged to hold public hearings on the matter as suggested by plaintiffs. See United States v. Florida East Coast R. Co., 410 U.S. 224, 240, 35 L. Ed. 2d 223, 93 S. Ct. 810 (1973) (agency may proceed with all or part of the evidence in written form).
2. Interpretation of "Coast Guard Presence"
The Coast Guard construed the statutory limitation on the recreational fee to include territorial seas, inland waters subject to tidal influences, and waters where a 16 foot boat, now presumably a 37 foot boat, can navigate successfully to waterways subject to tidal influence. Plaintiffs argue that this definition vastly exceeds the statutory limitations.
Initially, the Court recites the comment of the Supreme Court that
to sustain the [agency's] application of [a] statutory term, we need not find that its construction is the only reasonable one, or even that it is the result we would have reached.