Buy America Requirements ChallengedBy Cathy Cash | ECT Staff Writer Published: October 2nd, 2013
NRECA is asking the Department of Transportation to provide regulation clarity, technical assistance and more time for electric cooperatives to meet federal highway “Buy America” requirements.
At the request of the association and a broad coalition, DOT agreed to a reprieve from these mandates for co-ops until December 2013.
Yet NRECA and the other organizations point out that the extension is insufficient considering all what co-ops must do to buy only USA-made products when relocating property to accommodate federal transportation projects.
What is needed is regulatory certainty, training and technical assistance to meet their new requirements, and a more reasonable compliance date, NRECA and the coalition said in their Sept. 17 letter to DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx.
DOT extended Buy America requirements to co-ops last year under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. Buy America requires that steel or iron products incorporated into a federal-aid highway project be manufactured domestically.
“Historically, electric and other utility relocation projects associated with highway construction projects were not subject to Buy America if these relocation projects were federally funded,” said Russell Wasson, NRECA senior associate director for tax, finance and accounting policy.
A recent interpretation of the law applies the requirements to relocation contracts that are not funded by the Federal Highway Administration, if the contracts are within the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act.
“The new interpretation of the law would require utilities that must relocate equipment to facilitate highway projects to comply with Buy America requirements regardless of whether the utility actually is reimbursed with federal funds,” Wasson said.