By Andrew Aho
This is a proactive season for GMA’s government relations program, which will be punctuated with GMA’s annual Fall Lobby Day in September. Our efforts have been particularly effective in the following areas:
State and local advocacy
GMA’s State and Local Government Advocacy (SLGA) program has made significant progress in its efforts to bring geosynthetic solutions to state environmental protection agencies, state departments of transportation (DOTs), and to contractor organization such as the road builders associations.
To date, GMA Executive Council members have met with officials from these organizations in Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, Virginia, Texas, and Florida. Follow-up actions from initial and subsequent meetings have resulted in a variety of inroads for geosynthetics, such as providing language for the development of specifications for the use of geosynthetics in roadways; providing technical data for the management of coal ash residuals; writing articles for the organizations’ publications; and testifying at legislative hearings.
In addition, GMA has pushed the DOTs in these states to adopt the National Transportation Product Evaluation Program (NTPEP) geotextile audit and fabric printing program.
NTPEP geotextile audit program
GMA endorses the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) NTPEP geotextile testing and manufacturer’s audit program. GMA has encouraged state DOTs to incorporate the features of this program into their geotextile selection and testing processes.
The program was developed to eliminate duplicate testing that was done by the state DOTs. Its expansion now includes the quality assurance/quality construction (QA/QC) audits of geotextile manufacturers and the requirement that manufactures print marks identifying the prime manufacturer of the geotextiles.
GMA member companies that are in compliance with the program now include: Thrace-Linq, Propex, TenCate, GSE, SKAPS, Willacoochee, Fiberweb, Crown Resources, and DALCO Nonwovens. GMA members Agru America, Hanes Geo Components, and U.S. Fabrics are in the compliance process.
U.S. Transportation appropriations bill
Geosynthetic language is included in the draft committee report for the FY2014 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The language that specifically cites the importance of geosynthetics in highway and civil infrastructure applications:
The Committee encourages the Federal Highway Administration to actively review and incorporate geosynthetics for highway and civil infrastructure applications, due to their cost savings, longevity, and environmental benefits. The Committee also encourages the Department of Transportation to thoroughly review the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Study entitled, Information on Materials and Practices for Improving Highway Pavement Performance that investigated the benefits of incorporating innovative materials into pavements.
GMA worked with U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R–Tenn.), who supported our geosynthetics language with the committee. Rep. Fleishmann is on the House Appropriations Committee and is a secondâ€term member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing & Urban Development (THUD) approved the bill to which this report was attached.
GMA will continue to work with Rep. Fleishmann and his staff as the appropriations process moves forward throughout the remainder of the legislative year in Washington.
Coal ash legislation
At this writing, GMA is reaching out to its friends in the U.S. House of Representatives to support H.R. 2218, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013, when it is brought before the U.S. House of Representatives.
The House passed similar legislation during the last Congress, and the Energy and Commerce Committee has since worked to refine the bill through bipartisan Senate discussions and consultation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
H.R. 2218 accomplishes several important objectives and reflects a significant consensus regarding how coal combustion residuals (CCRs) should be managed and disposed. The bill ensures that the minimum federal requirements established by the bill for the disposal of CCRs are implemented through enforceable permits issued by the states; and it applies the EPA’s RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) “subtitle D” technical requirements utilizing geosynthetic materials as effective barriers to contamination and groundwater protection.
It also ensures that the United States can continue to receive the substantial employment and environmental benefits that come from the beneficial use of coal ash in transportation, agriculture, housing, construction, and other uses.
Water Resources Development Act
GMA lobbyists have developed a grassroots campaign to garner congressional support for language highlighting geosynthetics materials in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). GMA member companies have been sending letters to Members of Congress asking for their support of the GMA language in WRDA. This bill provides funding for water resources infrastructure projects and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The letters from GMA members focus on the attribute of geosynthetics in this regard:
- geosynthetics accelerate the speed of construction, and provide structural integrity to U.S. Army Corps projects.
- the utilization of geosynthetic materials in shoreline protection and water conveyance has been shown to provide cost savings, increased structural integrity, and increased lifespan in those applications.
- these materials are used in construction and civil engineering to line canals, strengthen levees, prevent erosion, and provide structural stability.
- the benefit of geosynthetics has been studied and demonstrated in reports issued by the Bureau of Reclamation, Government Accountability Office, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The grassroots letters ask Congress to consider including the following language in the WRDA first draft, which would encourage the use of these materials:
The Secretary shall encourage the utilization of materials and practices which are demonstrated to produce cost savings and project acceleration such as gabions, geosynthetics, and other erosion control materials, in applications such as shoreline protection, and the storage and transportation of canal water as recommended by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation report entitled “Canal-Lining Demonstration Project Year 10 Final Report.”
These legislative issues will be part of the GMA Lobby Day message delivered to Members of Congress, Sept. 18–19 in Washington, D.C. GMA members are encourage to attend.