EVA Construction Rules In Effect; More Sewer/Water Stimulus Funds Coming?

EPA Continues Aggressive Measures: OSHA Could Reassert Its Influence
By Stephen Barlas, Washington Editor | February 2010 Vol. 65 No. 2

The biggest issue for the underground construction industry as year 2010 unfolds is not just whether Congress and the President Obama administration will unveil a second round of infrastructure spending, but whether that second helping of federal funds for sewers and drinking water systems will find its way into city and country financial bloodstreams a lot faster than the first injection did.

A second stimulus bill is already on the move. House Democrat leaders passed a bill on Dec. 17 (H.R. 2847) called the Jobs for Main Street Act of 2010. It contains $37.3 billion for transportation programs and $2 billion for water infrastructure. That is far short of the $20 billion infusion groups such as the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and the Water Infrastructure Network are pushing for. The bill passed by a narrow vote of 217-212, with all Republicans and 38 Democrats, worried about increased federal deficits, voting against the bill. Those "no" votes raise questions about whether the bill can pass the Senate which will take the bill up sometime this year. The House bill also contains $715 million and $100 million in new construction funding for the Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation respectively.

While the president and at least the House Democratic leadership is eager to pass an ARRA-II, they face a not insignificant hurdle in terms of finding the money to pay for the total $150 billion cost of H.R. 2847, which includes an extension of unemployment benefits, aid to local governments and other expenditures in addition to the $40 billion in total infrastructure spending. The House bill pays for the new spending -- the bill weighs in at $75 billion -- by taking that sum out of the $200 billion in unspent funds previously appropriated for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, the bank bailout program Congress passed last fall.

EVA construction boom
The jobs bill is a highly visible reflection of Washington's interest in spurring infrastructure spending. But there will be other, much less highly publicized federal spurs to underground construction in 2010. While not labeled as an infrastructure initiative, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) distribution integrity management program (DIMP) final rule issued in December certainly will require a considerable amount of underground construction by municipal gas utilities. The American Gas Association called it "the most significant rulemaking affecting natural gas distribution operators since the inception of the federal pipeline safety code."