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Budget Analysis Shows Trouble Ahead for Highway Trust Fund

Trust Fund to Remain Solvent until 2020
This week the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its annual Budget and Economic Outlook for years 2017-2027.  Included in the report – which shows the deficit increasing and non-discretionary spending shrinking – is an analysis on transportation spending.  CBO projects that both the highway and mass transit accounts of the Highways Trust Fund will remain solvent until the end of the FAST Act in September 2020.  However, they go on to predict that the Trust Fund will be facing a gap of $144 billion to remain solvent to 2027.  This means that if the FAST Act were to be reauthorized for a full five years, the Trust Fund would be short $95 billion. A six-year reauthorization would require about $120 billion.
Absent any real, dedicated new revenues, the Highway Trust Fund will be in competition for a shrinking pot of non-discretionary funding to fill the gap between revenue going into the Trust Fund and the current spending levels. The CBO report furthers underscores why AGC and other transportation stakeholders are pushing for a fix to the Highway Trust Fund in any future infrastructure or tax proposals.
For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at oneills@agc.org or (202) 547-8892.

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Congress Shares Industry Concerns on Silica Rule with President

Today, a group of House representatives sent a letter to President Trump sharing their concerns with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) final rule on silica. The letter – which was signed by 90 members of the House – highlighted the president’s campaign theme of slashing regulations and how the silica rule fits that mantra.
The letter adds that the rule’s lower permissible exposure level is  not technological or economic feasible, OSHA used flawed data in the rule’s creation and OSHA woefully underestimated the cost of complying with the rule.
The future and the enforcement of the rule remains uncertain with the new administration just beginning to fill key positions within the Department of Labor. AGC has called on the administration to immediately extend the dates for compliance in order to allow time for Congress or the administration to roll back the rule. While a legal challenge is also pending, it’s too early to know the fate of any regulatory, legislative, or legal outcomes and contractors must continue to prepare to comply with the rule.
For more information, contact Jim Young at youngj@agc.org or (202) 547-0133.

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EPA Has Issued a New Stormwater Permit; AGC Has You Covered

The permit serves as model for state permits and directly applies in ID, MA, NH, NM, DC, as well as US territories and Indian lands.
AGC will host a free WebEd on EPA’s new Construction General Permit for stormwater discharges on Wednesday, March 1, 2017, from 1:30 to 3:00 Eastern Time.  To register, click here.  During this hour-and-a-half program, EPA’s point person for the construction stormwater program will provide an overview of the 2017 CGP and new electronic filing requirements.  The Chair of AGC’s Environmental Forum Steering Committee will lead a moderated Q&A session to address specific concerns for contractors.  And AGC will share available SWPPP templates and other helpful resources.
For more information on the WebEd and to register, click here.  Please also read AGC’s in-depth article about the new permit.

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Confirmation Hearing Held for President Trump’s Treasury Secretary

Last Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee held a confirmation hearing for President Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Treasury, former-Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin. Democrats questioned Mnuchin on a range of issues, but failed to land any knockout blows. Topics discussed at the hearing included: tax policy, conflicts of interest and his dealings with OneWest during the mortgage crisis, Medicare reform, combating terrorism, offshore holdings, regulatory reform, immigration reform, trade, currency manipulation, housing reform, economic growth, the debt, sanctions, pensions, Puerto Rico, and Social Security.
Democrats on the panel are insisting on a second round of written answers to be submitted on topics including sanctions, regulations and taxes before the committee votes. With the Senate out of session until Monday, Mnuchin’s confirmation will be delayed until early February. The Treasury Department last week named Adam Szubin as acting secretary. Szubin previously served as the department’s acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
AGC supports Mnuchin’s nomination and will work with him to promote a pro-construction agenda at the Treasury Department.
For more information, contact Brian Lenihan at lenihanb@agc.org or (202) 547-4733.

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AGC Signs On to Letter to President-Elect Trump Outlining Need for Infrastructure Investments

AGC, as part of a broad coalition that represents a vast cross section of the economy, is working to deliver a joint letter to the President-elect following his inauguration. The letter urges the incoming president to strengthen our nation’s economy through significant investment in infrastructure in order to end the cycle of uncertainty that has plagued America’s infrastructure network for many years.
Our nation’s infrastructure systems are insufficient to support American competitiveness and we can no longer afford to underinvest in the infrastructure that Americans rely on in our daily lives. AGC has encouraged our chapters to sign on to this letter to President-elect Trump, which urges him to act on a balanced infrastructure plan that will lift our nation’s economy and improve our transportation network.
For more information, please contact Sean O’Neill at oneills@agc.org or (202) 547-8892.

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WOTUS Rule: Supreme Court to Decide Next Steps

The U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 13 announced it will resolve a procedural matter concerning legal challenges to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ controversial 2015 rule that expands federal jurisdiction over “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS).  The Court, however, will not resolve anything concerning the merits of the rule.  When and how the ultimate case against the WOTUS rule will end remains uncertain.
With litigation continuing, the Corps is not implementing the 2015 WOTUS rule. Instead, the Corps continues to use the 1986 regulations and applicable jurisdictional guidance (status quo as it existed before the new rule) in making jurisdictional determinations or taking other actions based on the definition of WOTUS.
AGC remains engaged on Capitol Hill, within the regulatory agencies, and with the Trump transition team to address its concerns with the rule.
If you have questions, please contact Leah Pilconis at pilconisl@agc.org or Scott Berry at berrys@agc.org

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EPA Finalizes 2017 Construction Stormwater Permit

AGC Highlights Major Accomplishments, Notable Changes and Areas for Improvement

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published its final 2017 Construction General Permit (CGP), which authorizes stormwater discharges from construction activities. It takes effect on Feb. 16, 2017, which is when the 2012 CGP expires.  Among other achievements, AGC was successful in ensuring that the final permit does not require contractors to electronically report their site-specific stormwater pollution prevention plans (SWPPPs) for public, online examination — which would have increased the possibilities of erroneous citizen environmental lawsuits.

AGC closely communicated with EPA’s construction stormwater leads, and staff at other federal agencies, throughout the permit reissuance process and offered detailed recommendations on how to improve the proposed version.

Although the vast majority of states have been authorized to issue their own NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits, EPA’s CGP remains the standard-bearer for state and local stormwater discharge permits for construction projects. Therefore, it is important for AGC to monitor it closely because state and local environmental agencies look to EPA’s CGP for guidance concerning their own versions of the permit.  At present, EPA administers the CGP in four states (Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Mexico), the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, all other U.S. territories with the exception of the Virgin Islands.

For complete details and analysis on the changes to the 2017 CGP, AGC’s successes and potential landmines, click here.

For more information, please contact AGC’s Leah Pilconis at pilconisl@agc.org or (703) 837-5332.

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Federal Requirements for Sustainable Products/Services May Change

AGC is reviewing proposed updates to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) that would make federal agency preferences for sustainable products and services permanent, impacting federal construction contractors.  The changes build on an interim rule that took effect in 2011 (FAR case 2010-001, “Sustainable Acquisition”) that currently requires federal agencies and contractors to prefer sustainable acquisition options. It also directs federal contractors to recycle or recover construction and demolition debris and to comply with agency environmental management systems, among other things.  The interim rule was promulgated without prior opportunity for public comment.
AGC is currently reviewing the proposal and will submit written comments on or before the comment deadline of March 20.
For more information or to provide your input on the proposal, contact Melinda Tomaino at tomainom@agc.org or (703) 837-5415.

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Confirmation Hearing Held for President-Elect Trump’s Pick for EPA Administrator

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a confirmation hearing this week for President-elect Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. Pruitt is a fierce critic of the Obama Administration’s regulatory policy, and has lead the legal strategy against many of the administration’s signature environmental accomplishments.
Democrats questioned Pruitt on a range of issues from his positions on climate change and ties to the oil and gas industry, but failed to land any knockout blows. Republicans highlighted his opposition to regulatory overreach, especially large impact rules like the Clean Power Plan and definitions of Waters of the U.S. They also lauded his fight to champion the causes of farmers, ranchers, and small businesses.
Although the hearing was short on specifics as far as the Trumps plans for environmental policy, Pruitt made it clear he plans to fulfill President-elect Trump’s campaign promises on “job-killing” regulations. AGC supports AG Pruitt’s nomination and will work with him to promote a pro-construction agenda at the Environmental Protection Agency.
For more information, contact Scott Berry at berrys@agc.org or (703) 837-5321.

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House Passes Sweeping Regulatory Reform Legislation 

On Jan. 11, the House of Representatives passed an AGC-backed, comprehensive regulatory reform package. The Regulatory Accountability Act, H.R. 5, would help ensure that regulations undergo thorough economic analysis, are based in sound science and/or substantial empirical data, and are transparent with clear and feasible methods and goals. Five Democrats—Reps. Jim Costa (Calf.), Henry Cuellar (Tex.), Patrick Murphy (Fla.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), and Kurt Schrader (Ore.)—joined Republicans to pass the measure.
The House last week passed other AGC-supported regulatory reform legislation that would help roll back Obama administration midnight rules and require Congress to approve major regulations before they take effect.  AGC will continue to press for passage of this sensible and needed regulatory reform legislation in the Senate.
For AGC’s regulatory plan for the Trump Administration, click here.
For more information, contact Jimmy Christianson at christiansonj@agc.org or 703-837-5325.

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