Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org July 21, 2016
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On the Inside
WATER RESOURCES
Members of the House Asking for a Vote on Water Infrastructure Bill in Bipartisan Letter
TAX
AGC-Supported Building Infrastructure Bill Introduced in the Senate
SAFETY & ENVIORNMENT
Higher Fines for Federal Safety, Environmental Law Violations Starting this Summer
AGC, Senators Push for Delay in New Ozone Standards
TRANSPORTATION
2016 ELECTIONS
Republican Platform Addresses Infrastructure
WATER RESOURCES
Members of the House Asking for a Vote on Water Infrastructure Bill in Bipartisan Letter
Urge Your Rep. to Sign On to the Letter
 

House and Senate committees earlier this year passed water infrastructure bills – known as the Water Resources Development Act – that would collectively invest billions of dollars in municipal drinking water and wastewater projects and Army Corps of Engineers’ projects, including flood control and levees, locks, dams, harbor maintenance dredging and environmental restoration throughout the nation.  However, the bills have not yet been brought to the chambers’ floors for a vote, endangering their success in this election year.  There is currently a bipartisan letter circulating in the House seeking a vote on WRDA before the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30). Contact your U.S. Representative while they are home for their summer recess and tell them why it is important to pass WRDA and ask them to sign the bipartisan letter.

For more information, please contact Sean O’Neill at oneills@agc.org or (202) 547-8892. Return to Top

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TAX
AGC-Supported Building Infrastructure Bill Introduced in the Senate
 

Before Congress left for their August recess last week, AGC secured the introduction of a bipartisan Senate bill, the Public Buildings Renewal Act of 2016. This bill would create a new class of projects eligible for financing through private activity bonds (PABs), including public buildings such as schools, post offices, libraries, and courthouses.  A companion bill was introduced in the House earlier this year. The focus is now to help gather more support to get these bills passed through Congress when legislators return in September. Visit AGC’s Action Center and urge your members of Congress to support these bills.

For more information, contact Brian Lenihan at lenihanb@agc.org or (202) 547-4733.  Return to Top

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SAFETY & ENVIORNMENT
Higher Fines for Federal Safety, Environmental Law Violations Starting this Summer
OSHA, EPA and FWS Finalize New Maximum Civil Penalties
 

The financial penalties that federal agencies may impose on the regulated community as restitution (or a deterrent) for any violation of statutes/regulations or permit requirements are about to go way up, some by as much as 150 percent. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – to name a few – all have finalized penalty increases that take effect this summer.  Most notable, OSHA’s maximum penalties have increased by approximately 80 percent across the board.  Similarly, EPA published more than 65 penalty increases across the various environmental statutes that it administers.

The impending higher fines stem from recent legislation requiring federal agencies to adjust their civil penalties in two significant ways.  First, the agencies must make initial “catch up” adjustments with the higher penalty levels to take effect no later than Aug. 1, 2016 – as previously reported by AGC (click here and here).  Second, looking ahead, federal agencies must make adjustments for inflation every year — a change from the prior frequency of once every 4 years. OSHA and EPA will apply the new higher fines to all civil penalties assessed on or after Aug. 1, 2016, for violations that occurred after Nov. 2, 2015 (when the 2015 Adjustment Act was enacted). 

To read the full story, click here.

Note: All federal agencies that have authority to assess civil penalties, not just OSHA, EPA and FSW, will see penalty increases.

If you have further questions, please contact AGC’s Leah Pilconis at pilconisl@agc.org (environmental matters) or AGC’s Kevin Cannon (safety matters) or stay tuned in the next issue of these AGC issue-specific newsletters – click here to subscribe.   Return to Top

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AGC, Senators Push for Delay in New Ozone Standards
 

On July 15, 12 Senators sent Chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) a letter asking for the committee to consider the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016.  The bill would adjust the schedule for implementation of the administration’s 2015 ozone standard.  AGC supports the legislation and was a part of a group of stakeholders asking Senators to sign-on to the letter. 

This is not the first time AGC has been active in pushing back on the tightening of air quality standards.  For more than a decade, AGC has determinedly tracked and weighed-in on various national ambient air standard rulemakings (NAAQS) and significant emissions-related happenings, with an eye to protecting the construction industry’s interests. The federal government continues to tighten air quality levels, and states have to find ways within their existing legal authority to reduce pollution from sources within their borders. A lot of the focus is on mobile sources, particularly older diesel equipment, as they emit particulates and nitrogen oxides, precursors for ozone formation.

AGC has provide the U.S. EPA with lengthy comment on its prior notices to revise the ozone NAAQS (click here and here).  With the recent release of EPA’s final rule tightening that legal limit to 70 parts per billion (ppb), AGC promptly published a comprehensive “AGC Ozone Fact Sheet”  that explains EPA’s air quality management process, the 2015 revisions, and the possible impacts on our nation’s power, transportation and related infrastructure projects.  AGC also has solicited stakeholder input and furthered EPA’s outreach on planned modifications to “Exceptional Events Rule” (EER) that allows the agency to exclude certain air-quality monitoring data – associated with uncontrollable or unpreventable emissions – when determining whether or not an area violates a NAAQS. 

Similarly, AGC has weighed in on the particulate matter (PM) NAAQS reviews (click here – for example), as well as the latest nitrogen dioxide standards wherein AGC raised serious concerns with first-time requirements calling on states to monitor and measure NO2 levels near major roads.  Recently, EPA proposed rules to scale-back previously promulgated measures.

For more information, please contact Sean O’Neill at oneills@agc.org or (202) 547-8892. Return to Top

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TRANSPORTATION

 

At a public event this week U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx officially opened the Build America Bureau, which will be responsible for promoting U.S. transportation infrastructure development projects. The Bureau consolidates several existing credit and funding offices within the Department of Transportation (DOT). Creation of the Bureau was included in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and is intended to speed major transportation projects from inception to construction by assisting project sponsors in accessing credit opportunities, grant awards and other financing options.

The Bureau also offers technical assistance to project sponsors and encourages innovative best practices in project planning, financing, delivery, and monitoring. The office will manage three existing credit programs including the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program and the Private Activity Bond (PAB) program. Also included in the Bureau is the newly created FASTLANE grant program and an existing financing office in the Federal Highway Administration. The staff in the Bureau will be responsible for proactively reaching to localities and states with identified project needs to assist in coordination with the various DOT modes and financing opportunities.

For more information, please contact Brian Deery at deeryb@agc.org or (703) 837-5319. Return to Top

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2016 ELECTIONS
Republican Platform Addresses Infrastructure
 

At the Republican National Convention this week in Cleveland, the party adopted a platform identifying issues and principles that included several of interest to the construction industry. In regards to transportation, the platform recognizes that additional revenue will be needed to expand the carrying capacity of roads and bridges and calls for removing legal roadblocks to public-private partnerships. However, it opposes increasing the federal gasoline tax, which has stood at 18.4¢ per gallon since 1993, instead deferring to state-level increases in the gas tax. Significantly it takes no position on a mileage based user fee, which past republican platforms have opposed. AGC had urged the platform committee to remain silent on this issue. In a change from past platforms, the GOP calls for phasing out federal funding for transit, saying that public transportation is “an inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population.”

Besides the transportation proposals, the platform calls for reforms in the National Environmental Policy Act and advocates converting the Environmental Protection Agency to an independent bipartisan commission with structural safeguards against politicized science. Also included is a recommendation to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act.  The call for reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act and repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act were both included in the 2012 GOP platform.

Party platforms generally include broad statements about numerous issues that get the most consensus within the party but significantly lack specifics. Many of the issues in this platform have been included in past Republican platforms.

For more information, please contact Brian Deery at deeryb@agc.org or (703) 837-5319.  Return to Top

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