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National Associations Combat EPA Initiatives

Clean Water Act and Stormwater Permit Regulations Targeted.

By Mark S. Kuhar

More than 120 national organizations, including The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) signed a letter sent July 12 to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) calling for the swift passage of H.R. 2018, the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011.

The bipartisan bill introduced by Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla.) and Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall (D-W.Va.) provides clear protections for states’ U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved water quality standards and permitting authority under the Clean Water Act.

The well-established and effective cooperative relationship between states and the EPA regarding decisions on public health and the environment has eroded in recent years and this legislation aims to restore a balanced partnership. The committee passed the bill during markup June 22 by a vote of 35 to 20.

In essence, H.R. 2018 would prevent EPA from second-guessing or delaying a state’s CWA permitting and water quality certification decisions if EPA has already approved a state’s program. The bill was drafted in response to a Jan. 13, 2011, decision by EPA to veto the CWA section 404 Arch Coal Co. permit for their Spruce Mine #1 issued by the Corps four years previously. This marks the first time that EPA has vetoed a previously issued Corps Section 404 permit and could set a major adverse precedent for aggregates companies.

NSSGA is working closely with Transportation & Infrastructure Committee staff and its partners in the Water Advocacy Coalition to educate House members of both parties on the merits of H.R. 2018 and to see the bill pass on a bipartisan basis.

Meanwhile, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) is telling EPA that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is not the best with regard to Stormwater Permit Regulations.

Permits for stormwater runoff from construction sites issued by EPA should take into account many of the features that make transportation projects unique, the association told the agency in comments submitted July 11.

The association called on EPA to consider the long, linear nature of many transportation improvements. Such projects spread environmental impacts over a large area of land, as opposed to the concentrated manner associated with shopping malls or other projects.

Builders and planners need flexibility with future stormwater permitting measures, ARTBA said, since transportation projects are initiated in every part of the country, and those in areas with heavy rainfall should not be held to the same standards as those in arid regions.

ARTBA also addressed liability and cost issues, warning that any regulations should be crafted to ensure they do not create another avenue for opponents to use litigation to delay and/or disrupt needed transportation projects, thereby increasing the costs to taxpayers in the long run.

Recycled Concrete Could Reduce Road Paving Costs by 10-20 Percent

Civil engineering researchers at Purdue University are currently trying to perfect a process for the handling and reuse of recycled concrete. It is believed that recycling concrete could help reduce construction costs by 20 percent, and reduce the need for virgin limestone in areas where reserves are hard to come by. Working with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), the process is being evaluated and tested for eventual use in highway construction.

“Repaving requires uprooting existing concrete, so instead of putting the old pavement in landfills, recycling just makes sense,” said Jane Olek of the Joint Transportation Research Program. If used, the recycled concrete could reduce the cost of paving materials by 10-20 percent – not to mention it would cut waste, and waste-removal costs.

The researchers are experimenting with the optimal ratio of recycled materials in the concrete mixture to ensure durability and safety, as well as to begin to set a standard for the reuse of old concrete. Currently, 400 different combinations are being produced and tested for things like water absorption, freezing and deicing chemicals.

INDOT and Purdue plan to have a report by early 2012 which will list recycled concrete aggregate combinations and durability.