By Andrew Aho
Representatives from 10 member companies of the Geosynthetic Materials Association traveled to Washington, D.C., March 16-17 to participate in another successful GMA Lobby Day.
The annual event is part of GMA’s ongoing government relations program, which advocates for increased use of geosynthetics in state and federal infrastructure and environmental projects. GMA regularly meets with legislators and government agencies in United States and Mexico to educate policiesmakers regarding the use of geosynthetic materials.
The 2009 Lobby Day program began with a dinner on March 16. Martin Whitmer, GMA lobbyist, addressed the dinner group regarding the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“stimulus bill”) and the Transportation Reauthorization bill. The morning of March 17, the group was briefed on two issues for discussion at the meetings with congressional offices: (a) a cost-benefit study of the use of geotextiles as separators in roadways and (b) extending existing EPA regulations to cover the disposal of coal ash.
GMA member companies that spent time and resources to become engaged with these issues and articulate them to members of Congress during the lobby day included: AgruAmerica, Cooley Group, Colbond, Fiberweb, GSE, Highland Industries, Maccaferri, Propex, Synteen Technical Fabrics, and TenCate Geosynthetics. GMA was also represented by the lobbying firms of Whitmer & Worrall and Kemp Partners.
Members of the GMA delegation met with 17 congressional offices and the staff of one congressional committee. GMA has developed a network of “congressional champions,” members of Congress who are helpful in advancing GMA’s issues. The congressional meetings included several of GMA’s champions. The Capitol Hill sessions included:
- Andrew Aho (GMA), Boyd Ramsey (GSE), Dee Strong (ArguAmerica), Ed Silva (Cooley Group), and Martin Whitmer (Whitmer & Worrall) with Ann Adler, Deputy Chief of Staff (Majority Staff, House Natural Resources Committee).
- Bill Fields (Highland Industries) and Rudy Barry (Kemp Partners) with Perrin Cooke, Legislative Assistant for Sen. Kay Hagan(D-N.C.).
- John Henderson and Lee Bryan (TenCate) and Tom Worrall (Whitmer & Worrall) with Chris Cook, Legislative Assistant to Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).
- Massimo Ciarla, William Schelling, and Anamarie Stralla, (Maccaferri) with Faye Powers, Legislative Assistant for Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-6th-Md.).
- Richard Goodrum (Colbond) and James Kemp (Kemp Partners) with Rep. Heath Shuler (D-11th–N.C.).
- Dee Strong (ArguAmerica) and Martin Whitmer (Whitmer & Worrall) with Rep. Dean Heller (R-2nd–Nev.).
- John Henderson and Lee Bryan (TenCate) and Tom Worrall (Whitmer & Worrall) with Bridges Sinyard, Transportation Legislative Assistant for Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).
- Andrew Aho (GMA), Boyd Ramsey (GSE), and Rudy Barry (Kemp Partners) with Travis Talvitie, Legislative Assistant to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
- Frank Hollowell (Fiberweb), Paul O’Malley (Propex), and James Kemp (Kemp Partners) with Ryan Berger, Transportation Legislative Assistant for Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).
- Andrew Aho (GMA), Boyd Ramsey (GSE), and Tom Worrall (Whitmer & Worrall) with Bidisha Bhattacharyya, Legislative Assistant for Rep. Betty McCollum (D-4th-Minn.).
- Glenn Steen and Kim Roberts (Synteen Technical Fabrics), Dee Strong (ArguAmerica), and Martin Whitmer (Whitmer & Worrall) with Kevin Lawson, Legislative Assistant for Rep. John Spratt Jr. (D-5th-S.C.).
- Bill Fields (Highland Industries), Richard Goodrum (Colbond), and James Kemp (Kemp Partners) with Emily Cranford, Legislative Assistant for Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
- Paul O’Malley (Propex) with Greg McIlvaine, Legislative Assistant for Rep. Zach Wamp (R- 3rd-Tenn.).
- Ed Silva (Cooley Group), Andrew Aho (GMA), Boyd Ramsey (GSE), and Tom Worrall (Whitmer & Worrall) with Ben Kershaw, Legislative Assistant for Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-1st- R.I.).
- Bill Fields (Highland Industries) and J.T. Taylor (Kemp Partners) with Heather Parsons, Legislative Director for Rep. Brad Miller (D-13th-N.C.).
- John Henderson and Lee Bryan (TenCate) and James Kemp (Kemp Partners) with Lydia Morgan, Transportation Legislative Assistant for Rep. Paul Broun (R-10th-Ga.).
- Boyd Ramsey (GSE) with Darrell Rico Doss, Transportation Legislative Assistant for Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-18th-Texas).
- Frank Hollowell (Fiberweb) with Rep. Jim Cooper (D-14th-Tenn.).
GMA member companies were able to discuss issues that directly affect their companies and facilities. In addition, all meetings included discussion of GMA’s legislative initiatives:
1. Funding for a cost-benefits study of using geotextiles as separators in roadways.
The objective of the research is to evaluate the long-term performance of pavement designs that incorporate geotextiles in the pavement section as separators between the subgrade and base layers. This performance will be evaluated on the basis of determining the extended life of pavement sections incorporating geotextiles, and also determining the cost-benefits compared to alternatives such as increased thickness in pavement sections, and sections without geotextiles and various pavement rehabilitation techniques. The effect that the strength of the geotextile, insofar as resisting installation damage, has on the pavement performance is to be part of the evaluation.
GMA is working to include this study in the new Transportation Reauthorization bill. The current transportation bill expires Sept. 30, 2009.
2. Requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to extend the existing solid-waste regulation to cover the disposal of coal ash.
Coal ash has not been regulated by the U.S. EPA. Seepage from coal ash storage has been implicated as a source of groundwater contamination at 67 waste storage sites throughout the United States. The Dec. 22, 2008, failure in Harriman, Tenn., provided graphic evidence of the effects of a failure occurring above ground. Many people — both at the federal government level and also from independent environmental action groups — are working to support regulations requiring additional containment measures.
The geosynthetics industry has been lining and capping waste sites successfully for decades and proves the capabilities of these materials every day. GMA does not see a need for another study or another investigation. There are EPA tools in hand that work. If proper guidance is issued by Congress, our country’s natural resources and people will be better protected.
The annual Lobby Day is an important part of the GMA government relations program as we pursue our legislative initiatives.