Companies push for ‘Buy America’ waiver extension with deadline looming
Companies working on infrastructure projects appealed to lawmakers on Wednesday for a waiver extension for the Buy America Build America provision of the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year.
The Buy America rule required that all iron, steel, manufactured products and construction materials used in infrastructure projects funded through the legislation be made in the U.S. after May 14, unless the company working on the project had a waiver.
However, those waivers are set to expire in 2023. Executives testifying at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on Wednesday said supply chain issues and a lack of domestic producers made adhering to the bill within that timeframe unrealistic.
“While we support the goals of Build America Buy America and are actively working with our suppliers on their onshoring plans, the current state of the supply chain necessitates a longer waiver which currently expires at the end of this year,” said Jonathan Levy, chief commercial officer of EVgo Services, which specializes in making chargers and charging stations for electric cars.
Dave Bauer, president and CEO of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, said premature enforcement of the Buy America provision could have unintended negative consequences.
“The Infrastructure law includes common sense reforms to the environmental review and approval process that, once implemented, have the potential to reduce project cost and speed their benefits,” said Bauer.
“Conversely, well-intended new requirements such as the expansion of Buy America to construction materials if not pursued with stakeholder input and a clear eye on market realities, could have the opposite outcome.”
Ali Mills, who is the president of Plum Contracting Inc., said ambiguity in the language of the provision meant it was unclear which items constituted construction and manufactured products.
“To address this issue, [the Department of Transportation] must identify a specific list of which construction materials will have to be Buy America compliant and which materials will be considered a manufactured product. To date they have not done this,” said Mills.
“There is also heartburn within the construction industry about potential future project delays due to the need for a Buy America Waiver, and the low likelihood of being granted one based on history,” she added.
“To put it nicely, implementation of a new Buy America requirement is off to a rocky start and the construction industry is very concerned and confused.”
The Hill has reached out to the Department of Transportation for comment.