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GMA shares government relations plan at TRB

January 31st, 2011 / By: / Updates

Geosynthetics committee hears initiatives for transportation, coal ash

Editor’s note: The following statement was presented by GMA managing director Andrew Aho to the Geosynthetics Committee at the Transportation Research Board’s 90th Annual Meeting Jan. 25 in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for giving me a few minutes on your agenda to share with your committee an important Geosynthetic Materials Association initiative that we have been working on with our government relations team.

I am Andrew Aho, managing director of GMA. As you may know, GMA has a robust government relations program and we have had a full-time presence here in Washington for the past five years. Please allow me to introduce some of our lobbying team that is with us tonight: Martin Whitmer, Jimmy Kemp, and Rudy Barry.

These gentlemen, the members of GMA, and I am sure all of you have been anticipating a new effort by Congress in developing a comprehensive Transportation Authorization Bill. The process of continuing resolutions has been frustrating to us all. During the time of continuing resolutions, our team has been very busy and successful with other issues important to the geosynthetic industry.

One major issue we have been working on is that of requiring that coal ash waste facilities be lined with geosynthetic materials—a composite liner system that would help protect groundwater and prevent a coal ash spill as [occurred in December] 2008 in Kingston, Tenn.

GMA was out front with that issue, working with members of Congress and the EPA to ensure that geosynthetics is part of the solution to the coal ash waste issue. We secured letters from members of Congress urging the EPA to require geosynthetic liners, we had members of Congress asking geosynthetic related questions at congressional hearings, and we also testified at eight EPA hearings on the issue, and we provided written and oral comments on the issue.

We also worked closely with a congressional office to draft legislation requiring liners at coal ash sites—legislation that could have been introduced should the EPA not go in our direction.

We are now confident that when the final rule is established this year that a composite liner system will be required at all coal ash waste sites. When implemented, we expect this rule will add more that $350 million to the geosynthetic market.

We are now prepared for a similar effort with the Transportation Authorization Bill.

GMA agrees with this [TRB] committee that a cost benefit study of using geotextiles as separators in roadways is the number one research need in the industry. We have taken your research needs statement and modified it slightly and we added a new component—we will not only seek funding for the separation study, but also for a cost benefit study of pavements incorporating geosynthetic interlayers. We are taking this approach because of conversations our team has had with Chairman John Mica and the staff of the House Transportation Committee—and our separation study initiative reflects the new Chairman’s priorities for the 112th Congress.

The chairman has indicated that the focus of the transportation bill will be finding ways to get more benefit for dollars spent. This means there will be a greater focus on maintenance of roadways.

We will be working with congressional staff to design a request that will have the best chance of success. We will also need the support of the people on this committee and the friends of the committee. In the next few weeks we will be hosting a conference call, and that time we can discuss the particular details of our proposal and field more specific questions. However, both the separation piece and the interlayer piece reflect the past research needs statements made by this committee.

GMA also encourages this committee to continue efforts through TRB/AASHTO process to secure funding for your research needs. At the same time we will be pursuing a parallel track to secure funding through congress.

We look forward to working with all of you in this effort. In the near future, please look for an invitation to join our conference call to discuss the details of our proposal. Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to share with the committee.

Ron Bygness is the editor of Geosynthetics. Andrew Aho is the managing director of the Geosynthetic Materials Association.

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