2006 – Year in Review
In 2006, the construction industry saw a lot of attention from federal regulators, spanning from new regulatory initiatives to rewarding partnership efforts. AGC worked with government officials to make environmental rules more practical for contractors and released the Association’s first-ever comprehensive agenda for further improving the environmental performance of the construction industry.
Throughout 2006, AGC closely tracked its announced environmental goals for the future, which include improving environmental rules and encouraging environmental stewardship though education, awareness and outreach. AGC’s commitment to environmental issues was recognized by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. Following are highlights of this past year’s efforts—
EPA Administrator Highlighted AGC’s Environmental Agenda
The 2006 release of AGC’s first-ever comprehensive environmental agenda was met with praise and recognition by EPA's top official. Administrator Johnson applauded AGC’s commitment to encouraging and facilitating further improvement in the environmental performance of the construction industry during his private tour of Alberici Corporation (St. Louis, Mo.), a member of AGC. Alberici’s new headquarters recently received the highest green building ratings from the U.S. Green Building Council and the Green Building Initiative.
Johnson thanked AGC for its partnership work, noting that “we’re working to develop solutions that are good for our environment, good for our communities and good for [contractor’s] bottom lines.” He added that “EPA looks forward to a very vibrant and constructive future working with AGC.”
Construction leaders visit with EPA’s top official. From L to R - Leah Pilconis, Senior Environmental Advisor to AGC of America; Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, USEPA; Len Toenjes, AGC of St. Louis.
AGC derived many of the details of its environmental agenda from its formal partnership with the EPA. AGC also drew on its prior success in providing environmental services to its members and in working with property owners, design professionals and groups focused on green building initiatives.
In its environmental agenda, AGC challenges itself to—
- Encourage environmental stewardship through education, awareness and outreach;
- Recognize environmentally responsible construction;
- Strengthen government support for positive incentives for environmental excellence;
- Improve coordination and use of federal environmental rules, programs and efforts;
- Provide contractors with tools to efficiently manage environmental exposures and risks of liability;
- Identify opportunities to reduce the impact that construction means and methods have on the environment; and,
- Identify ways to measure and report environmental trends and performance indicators of such trends.
AGC Demonstrated its Strong Voice Among Federal Regulators
AGC continued to work with federal regulators to make environmental rules more workable for contractors. CEO Stephen Sandherr met with EPA Administrator Johnson to discuss industry views on more stringent air quality standard for fine particles. AGC explained in a letter delivered in person to Johnson the impact that a tighter particulate rule would have on the construction industry; chiefly the nationwide economic and quality of life affects of construction bans in nonattainment areas.
AGC also submitted comments to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works for its hearing on federal jurisdiction over waters and wetlands, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Rapanos v. United States (No. 04-1034) and Carabell v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (No. 04-1384). See Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. ___, 126 S. Ct. 2208 (2006). AGC encouraged the Administration to undertake a rulemaking to clarify the important issues arising out of the several opinions that jointly decided these two cases. In addition, AGC responded to government’s call for comment on a proposal to reissue and revise the federal Nationwide Permits that authorize dredge and fill work in waters and wetlands under federal control. In its letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, AGC urged the Corps to maintain an efficient and streamlined permitting process.
AGC’s advocacy and outreach efforts also brought about meaningful improvements to EPA’s oil spill (SPCC) rules. Accepting AGC’s counsel, EPA streamlined the federal oil storage requirements as they apply to certain low-risk facilities (like construction sites) and equipment (like bulldozers).
AGC Responded to the Threat of Diesel Emissions Reduction Mandates
As construction equipment increasingly becomes a target of regulation, AGC continues to speak out about the nationwide, economic impact of emissions reduction mandates. During its 2006 Midyear Meeting and beyond, AGC warned of California’s draft rules that would require contractors to replace or retrofit all older construction equipment. Such rules, if implemented, are likely to cost industry millions and could render millions of dollars of in-use construction equipment worthless. (See related article in this issue of the Observer.)
California is the only state that has legal authority from U.S. Congress to enact construction engine exhaust standards that far surpass the emissions rules set by the federal government. All other states can opt-in to California’s more aggressive rules – but states must adopt Calif.’s program identically and in its entirety.
AGC also kept members informed of new “ultra-low sulfur” standards for highway diesel fuel and reported on supply disruptions, price increases and operational challenges. ULSD is necessary to prevent engine pollution controls from being fouled by sulfur deposits.
AGC strived to advance voluntary clean diesel partnerships and initiatives aimed at improving air quality. AGC worked with EPA to prepare a research paper on low-cost ways for contractors to reduce emissions from their construction fleet. AGC also solicited chapter and member participation in the newly-formed "Clean Diesel Collaboratives." These collaboratives are making decisions about how best to reduce emissions from engines in construction equipment.
AGC Supported Members’ Efforts to Go Beyond Legal Compliance
AGC maintained an open dialogue with EPA officials tasked with increasing construction and demolition (C&D) debris recycling and reuse rates and pursued opportunities to facilitate members’ conservation efforts. Protecting industry from the threat of misrepresentation, AGC requested that the agency perform more research on C&D debris before it finalizes its draft reports that attempt to characterize the amount of waste generated by the construction industry. AGC’s encouraged the agency to take steps to obtain data that are accurate, reliable, verifiable, and appropriate, citing the lack of available data on nationwide generation of C&D debris.
AGC launched a new “electronic discussion group” for members who are developing or implementing an environmental management system (EMS). Through this e-Forum, AGC will provide support on EMS development and implementation in the industry. To date, AGC has published the first EMS guide and templates for contractors, conducted a series of EMS workshops and produced a tutorial CD-ROM based on AGC’s EMS guide.
Nearly 300 copies of AGC’s guide – Constructing an Environmental Management System: Guidelines and Templates for Contractors - are in circulation.
AGC kept pace with the latest green construction advances and kept members informed of new (and emerging) products, programs, and resources, such as EPA’s newly released Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers. AGC worked with the Green Building Initiative (GBI) to bring training to AGC members and chapters on GBI’s new Web-based self assessment tool for rating green building design and construction – called Green Globes™. In 2005, Green Globes joined the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating System as an available tool on the market for green building assessment and third-party certification. In addition, several other organizations are currently working on new consensus-based, green building initiatives, including standards development.
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