EPA Widens Buy American Exemption For ARRA Water Projects

October 2009 Vol. 64 No. 10

Concerned about getting bogged down by “Buy American” waiver requests associated with sewer and drinking water projects funded with stimulus money, the EPA has published a new national waiver policy concerning “incidental components.”

A narrower waiver has been in place since May. It said cities and counties getting State Revolving Fund money via the American Recovery and Reconstruction Act (ARRA), otherwise known as the stimulus bill, could source up to five percent of “incidental” components from sources that were “not [be] readily or reasonably identifiable prior to procurement in the normal course of business.” The new national ‘de minimis’ waiver announced in August deletes that “not reasonably identifiable” requirement.

The EPA consequently was getting badly bogged down with what were essentially petty de minimis requests and diverted from considering much more significant waiver requests concerning major components, that is requests to use foreign made pipe, tanks, pumps, motors, instrumentation and control equipment, and treatment process equipment. The delay in EPA consideration of significant waiver requests is a problem given that water projects funded with ARRA money have to be started by February 17, 2010. Consequently, in August, the EPA established the new national waiver for incidental components which relieves contractors of having to determine where nuts and bolts came from as long as they are less than five percent of the value of project inputs.

Environmental Groups Try to Block Enbridge Oil Pipeline
Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit to block a big oil sands pipeline Enbridge is building from northern Alberta to Superior, WI. The U.S. State Department approved the Alberta Clipper pipeline in August.

The lawsuit filed in early September by groups such as Earthjustice contends the State Department should not have approved the permit because importing the oil is not in the nation’s best interests, particularly with regard to the need to reduce global warming. "The Alberta Clipper will mean more air, water and global warming pollution, particularly in communities near refineries that process tar sands oil," said Earthjustice Attorney Sarah Burt. "The State Department fails to show how building a pipeline to import the dirtiest oil on earth is in our national interest."

Denise Hamsher, a spokeswoman for Enbridge, Inc., says that construction on the $1.2 billion U.S. segment should be completed by mid 2010. “We received 60 different local, state and federal approvals,” she states.