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Celebrating 10 years of government relations advocacy

News | April 1, 2015 | By:

Building on successes, more work ahead

By Lucie Passus, IFAI Division Supervisor

At the recent Geosynthetics 2015 Conference in Portland, Ore., GMA celebrated a decade of government relations advocacy success. Here are some highlights:

2005—GMA hires a professional lobbying firm—Whitmer & Worrall—in Washington, D.C., to help educate members of Congress and regulatory agencies and to advocate on behalf of the geosynthetics industry.

2006—In June, GMA submits language to Congress recommending that the use of geosynthetic materials be included in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

In July, GMA hosts its first Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., and has continued to host two Lobby Day events annually.

2007—Geosynthetic materials are acknowledged and prominently discussed for the first time at a congressional hearing on WRDA.

2009—Coal ash disposal becomes a prominent issue in D.C., and GMA actively educates Congress and federal agencies regarding the benefits of geosynthetic materials.

2010—At a public hearing in Arlington, Va., GMA testifies that coal ash can be safely contained as solid waste and that designating coal ash as hazardous waste is excessive. GMA also supports congressional action to encourage the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue regulations regarding coal ash disposal. GMA continues to advocate for use of geosynthetic materials to assist in coal ash disposal and containment.

2011—In April, U.S. Rep. David McKinley (W.Va.-1) introduces H.R. 1391, to “prohibit the EPA from regulating coal combustion by-products as hazardous waste under Subtitle C of the Solid Waste Disposal Act and for other purposes.”

In July, GMA began participating in what would be dozens of Utility Solid Waste Activities Group (USWAG) conference calls and D.C.-based meetings regarding actions in the House of Representatives on the McKinley bill.

In August, GMA continues to submit public comments and documentation to the EPA related to pending coal ash legislation.

In September, through GMA’s advocacy efforts, U.S. Reps. John Duncan (Tenn.-2) and Frank LoBiondo (N.J.-2) send a letter to Gene L. Dodaro to request the Government Accountability Office (GAO) perform a study to investigate the life cycle costs and benefits of incorporating innovative materials such as geosynthetics in pavements.

2012—In January, GMA meets with the Coal Combustion By-Product Coalition (CCBC) and USWAG to discuss pending EPA coal ash containment regulations. GMA is the only non-utility entity present.

In March, Rep. Duncan’s office sends a GAO commitment letter to GMA. The letter informs GMA that the GAO is committed to completing its study, highlighting the scope of the study and its expected date of completion, and requested assistance from the industry.

In August, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.–1) works with GMA to include language about the GAO study and the innovation of geosynthetic materials in the Transportation Appropriation Bill.

In October, GMA launches its State and Local Advocacy program to educate and promote geosynthetics in targeted U.S. states, particularly state DOTs.

In November, the GAO issues a federal report to Congress that includes geosynthetics materials as an innovative material that can improve pavement performance and reduce life-cycle costs.

2013—In June, GMA provides geosynthetics language to be included in the FY–2014 Transportation/Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act.

In September, GMA members send letters of support to the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (specifically to the chairman, Rep. Bill Shuster, and the ranking member, Rep. Nick Rahall) to include geosynthetics language in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA).

2014—In June, the word geosynthetics is written into U.S. law for the first time in the WRRDA. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is now required to consider geosynthetics as an innovative material in projects.

In December, the EPA issues the first national coal ash disposal regulations. GMA’s lobbying efforts secure language included in the final regulations that approve the use of “alternative clay liners” (geosynthetic clay liners). This language and mandate provide increased geosynthetics opportunities in the U.S.

2015—In February, GMA celebrates 10 years of advocacy and government relations successes at the Geosynthetics 2015 Conference in Portland, Ore. The occasion notes that GMA has held hundreds of meetings in Washington, D.C., and in state capitols across the country with national, state, and local policymakers to increase the acceptance and use of geosynthetics.

GMA Friend of the Industry awards

During Geosynthetics 2015, GMA presented its Friend of the Industry awards to two deserving recipients who have had a positive impact on the growth of the industry: Tony Allen and Tom Stephens.

Tony Allen is the state geotechnical engineer for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). From the beginning of his career at WSDOT, he has functioned as the department’s expert in geosynthetic materials, developing its testing lab and specifications, while taking the lead in geosynthetic designs. Among his many contributions, Tony was in a lead role in developing the groundbreaking geotextile manufacturer audit program.

Tom Stephens is the commercial director/Latin America for TenCate Geosynthetics. He started his geosynthetics career in 1981 with Celanese Fibers Marketing Co. as a market manager. When TenCate acquired Mirafi in 1991, he moved to Atlanta to become manager of that division, expanding distribution to Asia and South America. During more than 30 years in geosynthetics, Tom has been active on industry committees such as IFAI and ASTM, while writing and presenting many technical papers to help advance the technology.

GMA Spring Lobby Day

The 2015 GMA Spring Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., is April 21–22. GMA members and allies are invited to participate in this biannual event to promote geosynthetics on Capitol Hill. GMA will lobby for inclusion of geosynthetics language in a federal transportation bill. For more information and to register: or contact Omari Hoover, 651 225 6984,

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