The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on June 16 advanced the FY16 Environment and Interior Appropriations Bill. Among the most contentious portions of the bill was the American Iron and Steel (AIS) provision affecting the state revolving funds for drinking water and wastewater projects.
The bill was introduced with language that would have replaced the current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) highly restrictive definition of "produced in the U.S." to a broader definition that would have included “substantial transformation.” Unfortunately, despite significant support for the broader language, an amendment to strike “substantial transformation” was passed, and the bill that ultimately will go before the House will include the same language our industry has been saddled with for the past several years.
The Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Assn. (WWEMA) has been a vanguard within the industry fighting this legislation, which increases project costs and timelines, stifles competition and innovation, and results in retaliation from our valued trading partners. And contrary to its stated intent, so-called “Buy America” restrictions inhibit U.S. companies that rely on international supply chains from doing business—costing money, jobs, and economic development within their communities.
WWEMA sent a letter to ranking members of the House Appropriations Committee expressing our concerns regarding the AIS provisions, and we were not alone. A number of other pro-business, pro-water, pro-America organizations have stepped up to champion the need for fair, open and free trade within our industry.
The American Water Works Assn. submitted a letter noting: “At a time when our nation faces staggering investment needs of nearly $2 trillion over the next 25 years to restore deteriorating drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater infrastructure, the limited interpretation of the AIS provision, by excluding many American manufacturers of water pipe and other commonly used products, could make water infrastructure improvements more costly.”
And in a similar letter, the Associated General Contractors of America wrote: “The current application of the American Iron and Steel provision for water infrastructure recently shut out many of our members’ U.S. suppliers. ... While AGC remains opposed to all domestic content sourcing requirements, this version is particularly restrictive [and] forces contractors to either maintain two separate supply chains (one for projects covered by the requirement and one for those that are not) or to abandon long-held relationships with their suppliers …. This is significantly detrimental to those companies and the jobs they represent, many of whom are U.S. companies making U.S. products.”
Local content restrictions are bad for U.S. manufacturing, bad for water infrastructure and bad for the economy. WWEMA will continue to communicate this message to legislators and to the regulators at EPA who are responsible for interpreting the appropriations requirements. For more information on this issue, its effects on the industry and WWEMA’s related activities, visit www.wwema.org/buy_american.php.
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 [email protected].