ASDWA Continues to Support EPA Waivers for Build America Buy America

On August 15, ASDWA provided comment on two new general waivers from EPA for requirements under Build America, Buy America. The first waiver is applicable to small projects with total federal funding (direct EPA funding and any other federal agency) in amounts equal to or less than the Simplified acquisition threshold, which is currently $250,000. ASDWA’s comments supported this waiver but recommended that EPA increase the threshold to $1 million, arguing that this increase would better achieve the Agency’s goals of reducing the burden on small and disadvantaged communities.

EPA’s second general waiver applies to projects where qualifying products represent a small percent of the total cost of the materials used. ASDWA’s comments agree with EPA’s conclusion that failing to grant such a waiver would create a “significant administrative burden for EPA and recipients as both sides must negotiate such products on a project-by-project basis, which will increase the cost to the taxpayer, delay the award of assistance agreements and procurement, and has negligible relevance to the intent of BABA.” However, ASDWA recommended that the percentage threshold be based on project costs, not materials costs as this is a better-known value and more easily derived. Additionally, ASDWA recommended that EPA consider increasing the De Minimis calculation amount included in the waiver to 10% or 15%, rather than the proposed 5%.

In both letters, ASDWA’s comments provided additional recommendations for the Agency, including:

  • Providing additional waivers for BABA requirements, in limited circumstances, for the BIL funds moving through the drinking water SRF programs and consider using a population cutoff for projects to qualify.
  • Provide a more explicit explanation as to what funds must comply with the BABA requirements.
  • Consider using similar waivers for the Davis-Bacon (DB) Act requirements.

ASDWA’s letters stress that the Association continues to support the underlying principles of BABA and DB, but that these requirements “make the DWSRF process insurmountable for many small systems that need the funding the most.”