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NACWA Meets with Federal Leadership on Build America, Buy America

Feb 3, 2022

NACWA has been engaged in recent weeks with other water sector organizations in advocacy around the Build America, Buy America (BABA) requirements that were signed into law as part of the recent bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

As follow-up to a letter on this issue to the leadership of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)’s Made in America Office and U.S. EPA, NACWA and other organizations had a call with Made in America Office Director Celeste Drake, EPA Office of Water Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox and their staffs last week.

The water sector used the call to detail our key concerns and asks, including flexibility for projects already in the development pipeline, recognition of the unique constraints that clean and drinking water utilities face regarding treatment technologies, and expediency on waivers, when necessary.

The agencies recognize that the waiver process will be key to expedient implementation of BABA and to minimizing infrastructure investment delays. They are exploring options including working with manufacturers toward a goal of reshoring production and offering limited term (such as one or two year) waivers for certain products. OMB will be providing the guidance and oversight to the infrastructure implementing agencies, including EPA.

There was also good discussion around utility concerns about how the requirements might delay projects under tight compliance timelines, as well as concerns regarding increased costs. The group discussed options for grandfathering in projects that have already been permitted, have approved plans, have been bid, or have been submitted to their SRFs.

BABA takes effect 180 days after the IIJA’s signing – May 15, 2022 – and will usher in new requirements for purchasing American-made iron, steel, construction materials and manufactured goods. BABA will apply to all federal infrastructure investment programs across any sector moving forward.

The Made in America Office, newly created last year by President Biden, is spearheading BABA implementation across agencies and will provide guidance and oversight to EPA, which will directly implement the requirements as part of its funding and financing programs. We expect that OMB’s guidance will be released within the next month, and then incorporated into EPA’s program guidance.

NACWA will continue to engage on this new issue and keep members apprised as more information is released. Contact Kristina Surfus, NACWA’s Managing Director of Government Affairs, with questions or to discuss. 

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