The industry returns to Capitol Hill

By |  November 22, 2019
Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Ohio), second from left, visits with members of the Ohio delegation during the 2019 NSSGA Legislative & Policy Forum. Pictured from left are OAIMA's Pat Jacomet, Balderson, Julie and Chris Nawalaniec of Steadman Machine Co. and P&Q's Kevin Yanik. Photo courtesy of Kevin Yanik

Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Ohio), second from left, visited with members of the Ohio delegation during the 2019 NSSGA Legislative & Policy Forum. Pictured from left are OAIMA’s Pat Jacomet, Balderson, Julie and Chris Nawalaniec of Stedman Machine Co. and P&Q’s Kevin Yanik. Photo courtesy of Kevin Yanik

Pit & Quarry joined aggregate industry stakeholders on Capitol Hill for the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s (NSSGA) Legislative & Policy Forum.

Representatives from the magazine have participated in this annual NSSGA event the last three years, teaming up with others from our home state of Ohio to advocate for issues that are critical to aggregate producers and their businesses.

This year, P&Q associate publisher Dino Vitanza and I were part of two contingents from the Buckeye State that stormed the Hill. The others in our groups were Dave Ciszczon (Polydeck) Pat Jacomet (Ohio Aggregates & Industrial Minerals Association), Brad Kinkeade (CRH), Nate Mathew (The Shelly Company, a CRH company) and Chris Nawalaniec and his wife Julie (Stedman Machine Co.).

Three main talking points drove all of us to the Hill: investing in infrastructure, ensuring access to construction materials, and sustaining the environment. Here’s a breakdown of how the Ohio members of Congress received messages during our meetings:

1. Infrastructure

Infrastructure is generally always at the top of the issues list for this fly-in, and 2019 was no different.

But the difference this year – at least from my vantage point – is that no major bill is likely to pass before the end of 2019 or in 2020 (a presidential election year). And that’s unfortunate.

Many of the congressional members we met with in Washington agree investing in our nation’s infrastructure is the right thing to do. Of the nine congressional meetings I attended, seven were with Republican offices and two were with Democrats. But the feeling I walked away with is that our elected officials are aware of the work they must do; they’re simply inhibited from doing the work because of the “political climate.”

One government staffer we met with – a Democrat – expressed a desire to do something on infrastructure, but he said the political climate was the factor keeping his boss from doing so. I guess that’s political speak for you.

Considering the impeachment hearing was taking place down the hall from one of the offices we visited, it’s clear the climate is the manmade obstacle preventing real government business from getting done.

2. Ensuring access to materials

Photo by Pit & Quarry staff.

The ROCKS Act would establish a working group to examine the use of aggregate and recommend federal guidelines to ensure continued access to construction materials. Photo by Pit & Quarry staff

While the infrastructure issues discussed during the fly-in left plenty to be desired, the industry scored a win ahead of the Legislative & Policy Forum in the form of the ROCKS Act, otherwise called the Rebuilding Our Communities by Keeping aggregates Sustainable Act.

The bipartisan bill, introduced by Reps. Troy Balderson (R-Ohio) and Greg Stanton (D-Arizona), would establish a working group of federal, state and local stakeholders to examine the use of aggregate and institute a federal policy to ensure continued access to resources.

Ensuring construction materials are sourced locally is, of course, no longer a simple matter. So creating a working group would help preserve aggregate reserves for future development.

“The location of aggregates resources can then be evaluated and ensured in relation to the construction project,” says Mike Johnson, president and CEO of NSSGA. “By studying and committing to the availability of such aggregates, the resources can be efficiently produced and transported to the nearby projects, which would also lessen the truck traffic to transport the rock to the project.

“Shorter transportation distance from the resource to the project will mean less truck traffic on the roads, reduced emissions and more affordable costs for the projects themselves,” he adds. “It would be a win-win for us all.”

As my small Ohio group provided details of the ROCKS Act to congressmen and their staffers, we were breaking the news of the recently introduced legislation to them. So our presence was at least good for making them aware.

The majority of offices seemed open and eager to support the ROCKS Act, and one Ohio congressman even joked that he would give Balderson a hard time for not making him aware of the bill before our arrival. So the prospect of seeing the ROCKS Act pass into law seems promising.

3. The environment

The other topic my Ohio group discussed on Capitol Hill was the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.

The official withdrawal of the overreaching 2015 WOTUS rule goes into effect Dec. 23, and a final replacement rule is expected to be released in January. By all indications, the rule to come should be to the industry’s liking. If, however, the rule is not, then NSSGA and others are likely to call for yet another version of the rule.

Final thoughts

The Ohio delegation stormed Capitol Hill as part of NSSGA's Legislative & Policy Forum. Pictured from left are Franz Peters (Martin Marietta), Therese Dunphy (Aggregates Manager), Tim Rowan (CRH/The Shelly Company), Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), Michael Hunt (Martin Marietta) and Pit & Quarry's Kevin Yanik and Rob Fulop. Photo by Ryan Dilworth.

A delegation from Ohio also stormed Capitol Hill in 2018 during NSSGA’s Legislative & Policy Forum. Photo by Ryan Dilworth

Pit & Quarry will continue to participate in NSSGA’s fly-in, which moves back to September in 2020. But more participation is needed from within the aggregate industry.

As one industry stakeholder in Washington shared: Congress needs to hear more from the people directly affected by these issues. That would be aggregate producers.

Manufacturers, dealers and others see value in the lobbying event because the well-being of their businesses depends on the performance of producers. Equipment suppliers are better served when adequate highway funding is in place and burdensome regulations are rolled back, but it’s the producers who can ultimately tell their stories best.

Producers can not only share their stories in Washington, but they can tell their stories at home. NSSGA continuously encourages producers to welcome congressional representatives to their operations. Inviting a government official in presents an opportunity to share the challenges faced at home.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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