Last month, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed into law a long-awaited $1.1 trillion 2014 federal spending bill. Much to the dismay of many in the water and wastewater industry, the bill includes “Buy American” language, placing protectionist domestic supply restrictions on the use of the state revolving loan funds.
Within weeks of the bill’s passage, members of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) began receiving queries from utilities and engineering firms asking, “Will this affect our project, and by how much?”
Rest assured, water and wastewater construction and maintenance projects will be affected, both in terms of time and cost. The restrictions will make it more difficult not only for international suppliers but also for U.S. companies that rely on international supply chains to produce and deliver. It will ultimately hurt the U.S. economy and hinder job creation.
The good news is, this bill’s language  applies only to “use of American iron and steel.” Currently there is no reference to “manufactured goods” as we experienced with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The language within this bill and thus the exact nature of its restrictions are being left to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to interpret.
EPA asked WWEMA to comment on the measure. Based on input from our members, the association has issued a Position Statement  calling for an extremely limited interpretation of the restrictions and petitioning the agency to ensure that requirements for compliance and application for waivers be as streamlined and simple as possible.
WWEMA members are very much in favor of supporting American business, creating jobs and growing the economy. Buy American restrictions to funding hinder all of those objectives. We look forward to working with the EPA to help ensure that the state revolving loan funds continue to result in projects that will maintain and improve the water and wastewater infrastructure so critical to our nation.
Vanessa M. Leiby is executive director of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Assn., a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization that has represented the interests of manufacturers serving the water supply and wastewater treatment industry since 1908. Leiby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .