Federal Legislative Regulatory Matters
For the latest Legislative Matters, in searchable format, see the EJCDC Blog
Please click the link below for a new document of significant Federal Legal and Legislative Activity compiled for the June 2017 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of significant Federal Legal and Legislative Activity compiled for the February 2016 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of significant Federal Legal and Legislative Activity compiled for the October 2015 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of significant Federal Legal and Legislative Activity compiled for the June 2015 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of significant Federal Legal and Legislative Activity compiled for the February 2015 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of significant Federal Legal and Legislative Activity compiled for the October 2014 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of Significant State Legal and Legislative Activities compiled for the February 2014 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of significant Federal Legal and Legislative Activity compiled for the February 2014 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of significant Federal Legal and Legislative Activity compiled for the September 2013 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of significant Federal Legal and Legislative Activity compiled for the June 2013 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of significant Federal Legal and Legislative Activity compiled for the February 2013 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of significant Federal Legal and Legislative Activity compiled for the November 2012 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of significant Federal Legal and Legislative Activity compiled for the June 2012 EJCDC Meeting.
Compiled for the September 25-26, 2009 EJCDC Meeting
Stimulus Funds Flow to Water Infrastructure Projects – With national stimulus funds working to pump life and dollars into the economy, construction projects have moved to the forefront as politicians try to create jobs as quickly as possible. The latest area of focus is water and wastewater infrastructure, which is getting $7 billion in federal money for upgrades and changes.
For years, engineers have tried to raise awareness about the dire need to revitalize the nation’s water infrastructure. Crumbling sewers, outdated control systems, and hazardous water treatment plants are the focus of hundreds of small projects across the country.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has earmarked $1 billion in stimulus funds for water infrastructure projects, including major work in Arizona and the lower Colorado River region. The Pima-Maricopa Irrigation Project on Arizona’s Gila River Indian Reservation will get more than $36 million to build 10.5 miles of canals as part of a larger system to deliver water to the area.
Other water delivery systems will receive about $36 million around Yuma, Arizona, to repair pumps and equipment along 23 miles of canals and replace numerous walls and dams along the Colorado. Nearly $12 million will go toward overhauling systems in the San Carlos Irrigation and Drainage District south of Phoenix, which could save more than 8.1 billion gallons of water a year.
The Environmental Protection Agency has divided nearly $2 billion in stimulus funding among the state’s for their Drinking Water State Revolving Loan programs, which provide communities with low-interest loans for water infrastructure upgrades. States that have received the largest grants are California ($159 million) and Texas ($160.7 million).
The money is already being put to work. In Maine, for example, groundbreaking is expected to begin no later than August 1 on a project to upgrade a water treatment plant that serves two towns in the southern part of the state. Governor John Baldacci expects that the approximately $19 million for drinking water will help create jobs, improve public health, and promote economic development.
The EPA has also awarded about $4 billion for wastewater infrastructure projects across the country, including $430 million to New York State. EPA received the money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and New York’s Environmental Facilities Corporation will disperse the funds to local governments.
Council Begins Development of Code for Green Building – The International Code Council announced in April that it plans to create a green building code to regulate commercial structures. The council hopes the new code will become the measuring stick for green building worldwide.
“It has become clear to us that to advance the goal of achieving more sustainable building performance, some regulatory framework is needed for areas where market forces are not enough,” says Code Council CEO Richard Weiland. “We face challenges not only with new construction, but with existing buildings and how we can increase their levels of safety and sustainability over time.”
ICC began developing green building standards in the 1970s with the International Energy Conservation Code, which sprang from the oil-shortage crisis of the time. The Green Building Code will be designed to provide criteria for environmentally-conscious construction of traditional and high-performance buildings.
“We have arrived at an opportune time to build on the information and resources available to us to design a useable code as a model for green building programs,” says Code Council President Adolf Zubia. “We plan to use the same principles that have made the Code Council family of codes so successful, which is the development of model regulatory material that is consistent, coordinated, and developed in a consensus process.”
More recently, ICC signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Green Building Council to continue supporting environmentally conscious construction. ICC has also created professional training and certification programs in green system practice and has established the Sustainable Building Technology Committee, a Code Council Board initiative.
The council plans for the new code to address the complete carbon footprint of new buildings, including energy efficiency, water efficiency, conservation of materials, and indoor air quality.
ICC says the new code will focus on commercial building and not residential construction. The council already uses a residential building code, known as the National Green Building Standard (ICC 700), which it developed in partnership with the National Association of Home Builders.
The development of a new code coincides with some states’ decision to focus on enforcing current energy-efficiency regulations. Maryland officials are hoping to secure a $52 million stimulus fund grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, but DOE has made it clear that states must employ stricter enforcement of regulations to get the funds.
Many of ICC’s codes are adopted by city, county, and state governments, although many are altered to apply locally. ICC hopes its new Green Building Code will become a baseline for commercial green building worldwide.
ICC plans to get input on the code from a wide variety of officials, architects, and engineers who can help make the code universal.
Panel Urges New Approaches To Critical Infrastructure – The U.S. must make a paradigm shift in the way it treats critical infrastructure, says a recent report from the National Research Council. Although the deteriorating state of U.S. infrastructure has been a hot topic for years, the report explains that the discussion has failed to recognize two important elements: the link between infrastructure and other important national issues and the interdependency of systems.
The report grew out of a workshop with 50 experts from government, academia, and the private sector held May 7–8, 2008, at the National Academies in Washington, D.C. A committee within NRC’s Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment had been charged with identifying challenges in “moving toward critical infrastructure systems that are physically, socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable,” the report says.
After the data-gathering workshop, the workshop committee developed its report, describing a framework to help the country renew critical infrastructure in ways that address other 21st century challenges. David Nash, P.E., an NSPE member who served as director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, was chair of the workshop committee. In the report’s preface, he writes that critical infrastructure renewal can help meet such challenges as economic competitiveness, climate change, national security, energy independence, and disaster resiliency.
For instance, Nash explains that power, transportation, water, and telecommunications systems enable the production and delivery of goods and services that are vital to economic competitiveness, emergency response, and quality of life. In addition, those systems make up 69% of the country’s energy use and more than 50% of the greenhouse gas emissions tied to climate change.
But local, regional, and national policies, processes, and practices currently treat critical infrastructure systems as individual units when, in fact, they are interdependent, the report says. Without an overall strategy for infrastructure renewal and by focusing on one system, issue, or problem at a time, the U.S. risks wasting scarce resources and creating new problems, writes Nash.
Thus, the report outlines the following necessary components for developing short- and long-term solutions:
- A broad and compelling vision that will inspire people and organizations to pull together to meet the challenges;
- A focus on providing essential services versus upgrading physical facilities in order to foster innovative thinking;
- Recognition of the interdependencies among critical infrastructure systems to enable the achievement of multiple objectives and avoid narrowly focused solutions;
- Collaborative, systems-based approaches to leverage resources and provide cost-effective solutions; and
- Performance measures for greater transparency in decision making.
“What we…hope the report does is to begin the dialogue,” says Nash. The approach the committee took was to ask, “Can we frame the question so that we can begin to look for the solution?” he adds.
The report, Sustainable Critical Infrastructure Systems: A Framework for Meeting 21st Century Imperatives, is available at www.nap.edu.
Compiled for the February 19-20, 2010 EJCDC Meeting
U.S. Companies Boost Offshoring – The domestic shortage of science and engineering talent and the need to quickly bring products to market are two of the main reasons that the number of U.S. companies with an offshoring strategy has more than doubled from 2005 to 2008, according to a new study.
The report, published by Duke University’s Offshoring Research Network and the Conference Board, reveals that more than 50 percent of companies had a corporate offshoring strategy last year, up from 22 percent in 2005. Sixty percent of companies currently offshoring say they have aggressive plans to expand existing activities.
“Outsourcing innovation in engineering, research and development, product and software development, and knowledge processes makes companies, whatever their country of origin, more competitive by increasing speed to market and compensating for domestic talent gaps,” says Ton Heijmen, senior advisor for outsourcing/offshoring at the Conference Board.
In recent years, offshoring has been a major topic of discussion within the engineering profession. In 2008, the National Academy of Engineering published a report saying that offshoring has had a significant effect on engineering, but those effects are uneven across industries and engineering sectors. NAE added that more data was needed to determine trends.
Another report released in 2008 found that offshoring had become more popular in the A/E industry over the previous two years. The study by Zweig White showed that the percentage of study participants who had used offshoring grew to 42% in 2008 from 19% in 2006.
The 2008 study also showed an increasing openness to offshoring among A/E firm leaders. Survey participants said that capacity constraints and the desire to decrease costs were the main motivations for offshoring.
Scientists, Engineers Call For Improved Visa Processing – While the U.S. was once the clear leader in science and technology research, the country now faces an uphill battle to regain a prominent status among other industrialized nations. Now a group of organizations is saying that the biggest obstacle to regaining that prominence is broken visa processing system.
The National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and other science, engineering, and higher education organizations are concerned that since September 11, tougher visa restrictions on foreign talent have done more harm than good to national security and the economy. To ensure that the U.S. has the talent it needs, the groups are calling for a streamlined visa processing system.
In a statement released on June 10, the coalition reiterated that significant increases in visa delays are discouraging top international students, scholars, and scientists from studying and conducting research in the U.S. The delays could ultimately compromise the nation’s ability to attract talent and maintain scientific and economic leadership.
Earlier this year, a National Academies report, Beyond Fortress America: National Security Controls in Science and Technology in a Global World, described how the current system is affecting the U.S.:
“Instead of promoting engagement, the U.S. is required by our current system of controls to turn inward. Our visa controls have made it more difficult or less attractive for talented foreign professionals to come and learn what is great about this country, or to stay and help grow the American economy. Our export controls retard both the U.S. and its allies from sharing access to military technology and handicap American business from competing globally.”
Engineering in K–12 Increasing, Report Finds – Over the past 15 years, engineering education has been making steady inroads into elementary and secondary school classes, according to a new report. Although the amount of engineering coursework in K–12 is still small, it’s growing.
About six million children and teens have taken formal engineering coursework since the early 1990s, says the report from the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council. In 2008, there were about 56 million students in K–12.
Adding engineering to K–12 curricula can improve student learning and achievement in science and math, increase awareness of engineering and the work of engineers, and improve technological literacy, the report explains.
“The problem solving, systems thinking, and teamwork aspects of engineering can benefit all students, whether or not they ever pursue an engineering career,” says Linda Katehi, chancellor of the University of California, Davis, and chair of the committee that produced the report. “A K–12 education that does not include at least some exposure to engineering is a lost opportunity for students and for the nation.”
Despite the benefits of an engineering education, the committee found that engineering is often left out of the classroom as well as policy discussions on science, technology, engineering, and math. In addition, committee members found no consensus about what K–12 engineering education should include or accomplish. Although there are several dozen K–12 engineering programs or curricula, they are often developed independently, have different goals, and vary in how they treat engineering concepts, design, and relationships among engineering and other STEM subjects.
A free executive summary of Engineering in K–12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects can be downloaded at http://www.nap.edu/ .
White House Awards Funding for Electric Car Battery Research – President Barack Obama announced in August that 48 new electric-drive and advanced battery research projects will receive nearly $2.4 billion in funding, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Grants were awarded in 20 states and ranged in value from $500,000 to nearly $300 million.
White House officials say this marks the largest investment in hybrid and electric-drive vehicle research in history. Companies receiving the grants are expected to provide an additional $2.4 billion in cost share, and the total investment should create tens of thousands of new manufacturing jobs, according to estimates. The grants were selected through applications to the Department of Energy.
The $2.4 billion in electric-drive battery and hybrid research grants are part of the overall $61.3 billion recovery act.
“If we want to reduce our dependence on oil, put Americans back to work, and reassert our manufacturing sector as one of the greatest in the world, we must produce the advanced, efficient vehicles of the future,” Obama says.
More than $1 billion of the grant money will go toward 15 projects based in Michigan, the state with the highest unemployment rate in the country. Johnson Controls Inc. and A123 Systems Inc. received a combined $550 million to develop, manufacture, and produce battery cells and other hybrid and electric vehicle technologies.
About $400 million in grants will go to the Big Three automakers: General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford. Ford alone plans to spend $14 billion over the next seven years in advanced vehicle technology as it strives to meet government-mandated fuel economy and emissions standards beginning in 2016.
“After too many years of economic growth fueled by speculation and short-term thinking, these types of investments will help America recapture the spirit of innovation that has always moved us forward,” says Missouri Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, whose state had three companies receive $45 million in grants. “Over the past 100 years, from cars to computers, American industry was at the forefront of just about every major technological innovation in the world. We should be leading the way in clean energy too.”