December 17, 2012
As we look forward to the opportunities and challenges 2013 holds, we want to take a few moments to reflect on the past year and the accomplishments of the NSSGA Government Affairs team. The entire country is currently waiting with baited breath and eyes turned towards Congress and the president for resolution and compromise to be found as we inch towards the "fiscal cliff." It seems that the year will end as it began - marked by bitter partisanship that with only a few exceptions was a year of legislative gridlock. Nevertheless, the NSSGA Government Affairs team was not idle and relentlessly pursued the advocacy priorities of the aggregates industry.
To serve you, NSSGA engineered member meetings with congressional leaders, House and Senate committee chairmen, congressional staff and campaign committees to discuss issues of importance to the industry including transportation reauthorization, worker safety and health, EPA particulate matter standards and EPA's attempt to extend federal jurisdiction over all waters of the United States.
The continued commitment by NSSGA members has allowed the Government Affairs (GA) team to strategically utilize our grassroots network within the legislative process and to build upon the aggregates industry's clout with government regulators, resulting in some very noteworthy accomplishments, a few of which are:
- Achieved passage of "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century" (MAP-21), a two-year, $105 billion surface transportation reauthorization that slightly increases funding for highways.
- Filed an amicus brief against EPA's veto of a Section 404 CWA permit issued three years earlier. The D.C. Court of Appeals found EPA over-reached its authority and quoted NSSGA's brief in its decision.
- Successfully advocated to keep open the MSHA Small Mines Office, which has provided compliance assistance to small operators.
- Achieved through the MSHA-NSSGA Alliance a rule clarifying that in most cases operators will not be required to provide fall protection for work undertaken on working platforms fewer than six feet above the ground.
- Elevated the aggregates industry's visibility and clout in Washington by increasing member participation in ROCKPAC, raising it to become the 19th largest among all trade association political action committees. Raised record ROCKPAC contributions in the amount of $456,000 allowing NSSGA to contribute to over 235 candidates for federal office.
- Hosted or co-hosted 25 fundraisers for federal Senate and House candidates.
In an effort to build upon NSSGA's ever growing legislative and political value, at the start of 2012, your GA team feverishly engaged our grassroots by continuing to implement the "Floor It!" Action Plan for Reauthorization. The plan included a series of monthly themes commencing at the end of fiscal year 2011 and concluding at the end of the six-month extension of SAFETEA-LU on March 31, 2012. Plan actions were:
- "One-to-Five" program - designed to expand base of support for transportation reauthorization beyond the construction sector. Dozens of NSSGA member company official representatives contacted non-industry business leaders to elicit their advocacy with lawmakers for roads and highways.
- Op-Ed/Letters to the Editor campaign - more than 360 Letters to the Editor submitted to publications across the country, being printed in such noteworthy publications as The Des Moines Register and The Richmond Times Dispatch.
- "Driving it Home 2012" - NSSGA members urged to meet lawmakers in their home offices and take them on tours of their facilities - hundreds of contacts were made through facility tours for members of Congress.
- First Advocate Recognition Program awards - made to the most active NSSGA grassroots and grasstops advocates.
- Key Contacts Program - expanded for precision communications to individual members of Congress - 357 key contacts for 242 members of the 112th Congress.
- Webinars - held several webinars to explain pending surface transportation legislation and to review the elements of MAP-21 after passage.
Additionally, monthly conference calls were hosted by GA where state aggregates associations could exchange information critical to the aggregates industry.
For the second year in a row, NSSGA was a chief sponsor of the "Rally for Roads" held on the Mall in Washington. This news media event helped build momentum for surface transportation reauthorization and was attended by hundreds of transportation workers from around the country. Nine key members of Congress, including the chairmen of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee and the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, spoke at the rally and pledged their support for reauthorization.
After tireless months and tremendous effort by everyone, including NSSGA's grasstops and grassroots, with its partners and their grassroots in the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC), Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM), American Highway Users Alliance (AHUA) and The Road Information Program (TRIP), we achieved passage of MAP-21, a two-year surface transportation reauthorization with historic program reforms, consolidations and environmental streamlining. NSSGA created a digital timeline to highlight the combined efforts of NSSGA and our membership to achieve passage of this major and historic legislation.
Meanwhile, challenges continued off Capitol Hill as EPA's pending guidance to expand the definition of waters in the United States continued to loom over our industry. NSSGA was a leader in opposing this guidance and helped secure congressional support to block this unlawful expansion of federal jurisdiction.
NSSGA proactively fought and succeeded in moving EPA to maintain the existing standard for coarse particulate matter (PM10) emissions. This was accomplished by GA leading numerous visits to Capitol Hill (House and Senate in bipartisan strategy), EPA (including program officials, an assistant administrator and the deputy administrator) and OMB to protest imposition of a reduced standard because of a lack of scientific justification and expected significant permitting cost increases. NSSGA also submitted comments to EPA in opposition its proposed rules on PM 2.5 particulate matter and exceptional events.
As your advocate, NSSGA successfully negotiated with MSHA to keep open its Small Mines Office, which provides compliance assistance for small aggregates operators. NSSGA promoted the reconstituted office and the essential assistance it provides for small operators in providing clarification on complying with the often nebulous and confusing MSHA standards.
Through the NSSGA-MSHA Alliance, a rule clarification was issued so that operators, in most cases, are not required to provide fall protection for work undertaken on working platforms fewer than six feet above the ground. NSSGA continued to facilitate MSHA outreach to stakeholders in the Pacific Northwest, and Midwest, with tours for MSHA leaders to NSSGA member facilities.
GA also prepared education materials and briefed congressional staff on concerns with legislation that would revise the Toxic Substances Control Act, by reversing the burden of proof from regulatory agencies to industry for chemical safety determinations, as well as misclassifying common rock as asbestos. Recognizing the large number of new members of the incoming 113th Congress, NSSGA has initiated a congressional education effort by the Allied Group on the Accurate Definition of Minerals, a group of like-minded organizations that share our interest in accurately defining asbestos, to educate new members on this complex issue.
NSSGA took the lead on an allied group joint letter to the EPA that expressed concerns about the agency's flawed estimate of risk from exposure to asbestos in vermiculite from Libby, Mont. EPA's proposed exposure limit could be misapplied to common rocks. NSSGA also is a leader of the American Chemistry Council's Crystalline Silica Panel (CSP), which proposes strict application of sound science to better define the hazards of low-level exposure to crystalline silica. As a result of these and other continuing efforts, NSSGA was instrumental in the successful effort to delay issuance of an OSHA/MSHA rule that lowers the crystalline silica exposure limit, which, according to independent economists, would cost more than $2.5 billion annually.
Your GA team provided vital information to state aggregates associations to help inform and educate local regulators faced with permitting new sand production facilities amidst opposition from anti-fracking interests. GA also conducted conference calls with state aggregates association executives to discuss concerns with DARWin-ME pavement design software that potentially underestimates the structural value of aggregates.
In the midst of these efforts, we updated NSSGA's policy position papers to ensure they have the most update-to-date legislative and regulatory information and updated the grassroots laminated pocket information cards for use by NSSGA grasstops and grassroots.
With all of this accomplished or ongoing, we cannot let up! Rest assured that the Government Affairs team along with the Health, Safety and Environment Division will only increase our efforts to grow the aggregates industry and relieve the regulatory burden that stifles business development.
Our biggest challenge continues to be to convince the public - and through them, their elected officials - that investing in America's transportation infrastructure is an investment in economic growth, job creation, cleaner air, safer roads, and freedom of mobility treasured by every American. To meet that challenge we need YOUR involvement through calls, letters, facility tours, and fly-ins. Your symphonized choir of voices is what truly brings about change and moves issues facing the aggregates forward in a positive way.
Thank you for your partnership over the past year. We ask you to renew that partnership in 2013.
President, Pete Lien & Sons, Inc.
Chairman, NSSGA Government Affairs Committee
||Pamela J. Whitted|
Senior Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs
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