White House looks to future in major rewrite of National Environmental Policy Act

In a move garnering wide praise from construction and business interests, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced its final rule to comprehensively update and modernize National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations for the first time in over 40 years. Among leaders praising last month’s action, Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao noted, “These much-needed common sense reforms will help cut red tape and speed delivery of infrastructure projects all across America.”

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Workforce development the White House order of the day

Associated Builders and Contractors is among 20-plus charter signatories to “Pledge to America’s Workers,” supporting a White House initiative, National Council for the American Worker, that President Donald Trump created by Executive Order. The Council is charged with developing a strategy for training and retraining workers across high demand industries.

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White House envisions shift of Corps functions to Transportation, Interior

Report

As part of sweeping Executive Branch reform announced late last month, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) proposes to move Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works functions—coastal and inland commercial navigation programs; flood and storm damage reduction; and, aquatic ecosystem restoration—from the Department of Defense to the Departments of Transportation and Interior (DOT, DOI).

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Park Service contractor deploys vacuum lifting for new White House steps

Sources: Vacuworx, Tulsa, Okla.; CP staff

The National Park Service’s Frederick, Md.-based Historic Preservation Training Center (HPTC) deployed a Vacuworx lifting system to set 46 new Missouri limestone slabs, topping out at 2,400 lbs., during the recent White House South Portico stairway reconstruction. The diesel-powered device pulls a vacuum between lifting pads and objects to be placed, securing a positive seal.

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Trump: Concrete friend, regulation foe

Private sector employers, employees and job seekers will soon have a friend in the White House. Before looking at the new administration’s promise, a brief look back to November 2001, when this column noted Donald Trump’s appreciation for quality construction. The then-celebrity developer had assessed post-Twin Towers building practice in a prime time exchange with ABC 20/20 host Barbara Walters, citing “more concrete,” as a means of constructing “a great building a lot tougher than the World Trade Center turned out to be.”

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Insurance interests take note of resilience-wise White House policy

Continuing to focus on how to mitigate increasing economic consequences of extreme weather and other climate-related risks, especially as they relate to the architectural/engineering/construction community and the built environment, the White House hosted Forum on Smart Finance for Disaster Resilience. State and local government officials, along with insurance and financial services stakeholders, assembled last month to learn about new investment approaches and incentive programs presently deployed in communities, and to explore potential innovative financing mechanisms.

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Sweeping agency actions show White House all in on codes & standards-driven resiliency

Sources: White House Briefing Room; CP staff

“Building codes set the baseline for the safe design and construction of our homes, schools, and workplaces, providing the minimum requirements to adequately safeguard the health, safety and welfare of occupants,” the Obama administration noted in a statement on the Conference on Resilient Building Codes. The White House-hosted, May 10 event saw announcement of actions across federal agencies overseeing or influencing building and nonbuilding construction:

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Late-2014 figures track positively trending construction market

Analyzing federal government data on construction spending through November, Associated General Contractors of America confirms that overall 2014 project activity was set to modestly outpace 2013 totals. Figures released early last month coincide with association members’ push for action on a series of federal infrastructure programs, including funding for highway and transit upgrades, plus clean water initiatives.

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PCA: Pavements belong in feds’ vehicle fuel economy, lower emissions equation

Sources: Portland Cement Association, Washington, D.C.; CP staff

Responding to the White House’s just-announced second phase of fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks, targeted for 2015-16 rulemaking and implementation, PCA CEO Gregory Scott notes, “We should expand the debate beyond making more efficient [vehicles] to making more efficient infrastructure.”

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