AMWA voices support for Build America, Buy America waivers

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), representing large U.S. drinking water systems, submitted a pair of comments this month pertaining to proposed waivers of Build America, Buy America (BABA) requirements for EPA program-funded projects.

EPA has previously proposed temporary public interest waivers for projects funded by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), State Revolving Fund, and various other water programs. AMWA has repeatedly urged EPA to expand these waivers to allow projects more time to adapt to the new provisions.

The first proposed waiver offered relief from BABA requirements for EPA-funded projects awarded $250,000 or less. AMWA has voiced support for small projects waivers but argued the $250,000 threshold was too low. Due to increasing costs of labor and materials and the average award of the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Small and Disadvantaged communities Drinking Water grants, AMWA recommended $1.2 million as a more appropriate threshold for BABA waivers of small projects. This measure would ensure more projects have the flexibility to maximize the benefits of these awards.

The second proposed waiver would provide a BABA waiver for de minimis items, up to 5 percent of the total cost of materials. While supporting the BABA requirements waiver for de minimis items, the association recommended that EPA has a simple and streamlined process for projects to receive a waiver if de minimis items exceed the 5 percent threshold. AMWA argued that this arbitrary percentage threshold should not prevent projects with large purchases of de minimis items from benefitting from a waiver of BABA requirements.

EPA has finalized a waiver for WIFIA-funded projects that have initiated project design planning prior to May 14, 2022, the effective date of the BABA requirements. EPA is reviewing comments on other program waivers and intends to finalize them soon.

Source: Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies

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