Government Affairs

President Takes Aim at Burdensome Environmental Approvals

President Donald J. Trump last week announced a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to reform Environmental Policy Act regulations. 

During a press conference to announce the NPRM, the President blamed onerous regulations for creating lengthy delays. “Critical infrastructure projects have been tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process,” he says.

These endless delays waste money, keep projects from breaking ground, and deny jobs to our nation’s incredible workers,” he says. During his remarks, the President cited specific examples of highway, roadway and bridge projects and explained how several projects have been adversely affected by the current, complex approval process. 

“We’re going to get it down to 2 years and maybe less, with strong regulation, especially environmental and safety regulation,” he says. The Administration’s proposed changes include a unfied decision-making process called, “One Federal Decision,” which the President says will “require agencies to work closely together to promptly deliver one decision.”

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and EPA Secretary Andrew R. Wheeler also made supporting remarks and described details of the NPRM process and the Administration’s plans. Several industry officials were also present and expressed support for the Administration’s plans to reform the regulations. For additional information, click here to see the press conference on YouTube.

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Image courtesy of the White House via YouTube.

APTP Funding Secured in 2020 Appropriations Package

The ACPA-initiated “Airfield Pavement Technology Program (APTP)” was included in the latest “minibus” funding package, which secures the funding for FY 2020.

The measure was approved as part of a two-package “minibus” legislation totaling about $500 billion. The House approved the measures on December 17; the Senate approved the package on December 19; and President Trump signed both into law on December 20.

Leif Wathne, ACPA Executive Vice President, points to collaborative efforts that led to the inclusion of the program. “We worked closely with PCA and NAPA to include the program in the 2018 FAA bill (the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018). With the authorization secured, ACPA, along with support from legislative consultants Ed Graber and Chad Bradley, PCA and NAPA, then turned the focus to appropriations.”

“Last year, we worked together with our legislative partners to secure an addition $6 million in funding over the baseline amount ($33,224,000) for Airport Technology Research, effectively funding the APTP program called out in Section 744 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018” he says, adding this is an essential step for each of the five years of the program. “We went to Congress and requested another $6 million to ensure we exceeded the baseline amount, which we are confident will create the opportunity for the FAA to establish a cooperative agreement and/or other collaborative research with the National Concrete Pavement Technology Center (CP Tech Center), similarly to the way past IPRF programs were handled.”

The groundwork for collaborative research with the FAA has been ongoing and was the topic of a productive meeting last June at the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, NJ. Representing ACPA and the CP Tech Center were Jim Mack (2019 Chairman) of CEMEX, Jerry Voigt, Leif Wathne, Gary Mitchell, Gordon Smith and Peter Taylor, Ph.D. (See related story: Meeting Focuses on Collaborative Airport Pavement Research.)

The approach to the APTP program is modeled closely after the highly successful, ACPA-led AID-PT program in recent Highway Bills,* which has resulted in millions of dollars’ worth of support and scores of technology advances since 2012.  

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* The Accelerated Implementation and Deployment of Pavement Technologies (AID-PT) is a provision first included in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP 21). This ACPA-led initiative created both a mechanism and funding for the delivery of pavement technology. In 2015, Congress included the program in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which provides funding through 2020. The program has resulted in funding and major initiatives being directed to the National Concrete Pavement Technology Center (CP Tech Center), an ACPA Technology Partner. AID-PT has had direct and tangible benefits for highway agencies, contractors, consultants, and academia. Concrete overlays and performance-engineered concrete mixtures (including the use of recycled concrete aggregates) are two technology initiatives that have received support in the form of outreach, education & training, and technology transfer.

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FHWA Design Policy Workshop Spotlights Competition

The National Summary Workshop on FHWA’s Pavement Design Policy and Guidance was held recently at FHWA headquarters in Washington, DC. The purpose was to summarize the findings from an industry listening session and five regional DOT peer exchanges. 

The meeting also provided an opportunity for stakeholders (including industry, state agencies, and the FHWA) to discuss FHWA’s pavement policy, pavement selection and the role of inter-industry competition, as well as potential next steps stemming from the listening session and peer exchanges among 48 states in five regions. Representing ACPA at the national workshop were Jim Mack (2019 Chairman), Jerry Voigt and Leif Wathne. 

The workshop was one of the main outcomes of ACPA’s  direct engagement with FHWA on competition and pavement policy, says Leif. 

“ACPA members have in recent years invested significant time and resources to support efforts to engage with and  inform the FHWA on the significant economic benefits of pavement competition,” he says. Although the workshop has not yet yielded specific programmatic outcomes, “we can consider this and other related activities a success if they result in State transportation departments weighing how they can better leverage the free-market dynamic between paving industries. Once decision makers and policy makers are made aware of the inequity that exists among paving industries, they usually recognize the opportunities that having a competing concrete pavement industry can provide.”

In addition to pavement policy and competition, the workshop also provided an opportunity to discuss budgeting/funding, pavement design, communications challenges, external influences, workforce issues, historical data collection and reporting.

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Follow this link to see ACPA’s government affairs repository.

News from Capitol Hill

This is the latest installment of highlights of PCA’s “This Week in Washington” update. Interested in seeing more? Become an ACPA Advocacy Interest Member.* Advocacy Interest Members are eligible to participate in the Legislative Issues Committee (LIC). Click here to join!

Here’s a overview of two important developments in the Nation’s capital:

  • President Donald Trump on Nov. 21st signed a Continuing Resolution (H.R. 3055) that funds the federal government until December 20 as lawmakers negotiate a long-term bill for FY2020. The legislation included a provision to prevent a $7.6 billion cut to the highway program, which we reported on in ACPA TODAY (Nov. 20). 
  • The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis held a hearing called, “Creating a Climate Resilient America: Reducing Risks and Costs.” In former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate’s testimony, he called for greater emphasis on pre-disaster mitigation. On the topic of the resiliency of wood as a building material, he disagreed with the Member who suggested wood was a resilient building material and raised concerns about wood buildings to withstand floods, fires and mud slides that frequently follow a large wildfire. PCA and NRMCA have previously shared with the committee the industry’s positions on the topic and further, have advocated for the use of concrete in construction of various structures.

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* Advocacy Interest Membership is a special individual membership category. To be eligible for membership in this category, a member must be a stockholder, owner, director, or employee of a member admitted to any other class of membership (Article IV, Section a-i, and l). In addition, to become and remain eligible, individuals must affirm their Advocacy Interest Membership annually.

Follow this link to see ACPA’s government affairs repository.

 

Leaders Move to Block Rescission of Highway Contract Authority

House Democratic leaders on Tuesday released the text of a second fiscal year 2020 stopgap appropriations measure, with this CR expected to last from midnight November 21 to midnight December 20, according to Jeff Davis of The Eno Group. Aside from keeping the federal government operating at prorated FY 2019 levels past midnight Thursday (tomorrow), the legislation would repeal the $7.569 billion rescission of highway contract authority scheduled to take place on July 1, 2020, by section 1438 of the FAST Act.

Section 1702 of the draft bill states, “Section 1438 of the FAST Act (Public Law 114–94; 129 Stat. 1432) is repealed” and changes the FAST Act table of contents correspondingly. Title VIII of the bill also declares that neither the OMB nor the Senate shall score the budgetary effects of the bill on the “scorecard,” so any outlay consequences of the rescission repeal (if they are found to exist) will not be counted toward budget totals.

The provision of the bill repealing the rescission still violates several points of order under the Budget Act, as well as House and Senate budget rules, but the looming federal government shutdown affords House lawmakers the ability to “dare” opponents of the repeal to elevate the issue to the point where opposition of the appeal could result in a large-scale government shutdown.

In anticipation (and in strong opposition to) the rescission of the highway contract authority, the Transportation Construction Coalition, sent a letter to House Leadership last Friday strongly urging repeal of the rescission. The rescission of this contract authority, the Associations reasoned, would adversely impact all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Click here to see the letter.

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