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Walbec’s Enders speaks on behalf of NAPA on Capitol Hill

Walbec Vice President Brian Enders

Brian Enders part of panel in Buy America Provisions: Stakeholder Perspectives hearing

Walbec Vice President Brian Enders testified in a hearing on Capitol Hill on behalf of NAPA on Feb. 15, sharing a stakeholder perspective on the implementation of Buy America provisions with the Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

Enders, a member of the NAPA Board of Directors and chairman of the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) board, submitted written testimony for the subcommittee and also answered questions from its members.

Enders began by explaining how asphalt pavement is made through a combination of aggregates and asphalt binder, and how the mix specifications can be adjusted to withstand differing weather and traffic conditions. He explained that domestic production of asphalt binder cannot meet demand due to a lack of refining capacity, while some areas of the country lack access to quality materials.

“In most parts of the country, asphalt pavement is produced with locally sourced materials, yet certain parts of the country need to import raw materials like asphalt binder and aggregate, because those materials are not available locally. Without access to these necessary raw materials, road construction would be delayed or altogether cost-prohibitive. That is why, in certain regions of the country, mix producers import in small amounts of raw materials.”

Enders said the continuation of an exemption for road construction materials originally granted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 1983 was pivotal for asphalt pavement manufacturers in those regions when the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) became law.

Rep. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) pressed Enders on how exemptions for construction materials impact his home state. Enders said while 80 percent of binder is produced in the United States, the supplementary imports give contractors flexibility to bid on more projects and complete more work.

Rep. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

Menendez also asked Enders to expand on his opening statement, which noted how asphalt is the nation’s most recycled product, and explain how the use of reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) can benefit states in the northeast.

“A source of pride for my industry is that asphalt pavement is the most recycled product in America,” Enders told the subcommittee, explaining how reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “Old pavements can continuously be used in new pavements.”

Enders said the pavements in and around New Jersey were likely constructed with about 20 percent RAP, which is plentiful in the region.

“The ability to continue to use more reclaimed asphalt, which ultimately gives you aggregates and asphalt binder, continues to help you be less reliant on the materials you’re getting from other places,” Enders said.

“And other benefits as well,” Menendez said, asking Enders to share more about how recycling and exemptions factor into the industry’s focus on sustainability.

“We’re using it to supplement what we have. As we continue to be able to do more of that, it helps us get closer to net zero emissions by 2050, and it continues to be an avenue to reuse our materials that we have,” Enders said. “That’s one of the benefits of asphalt is that it continues to be reused and reused, most of the time, back in the asphalt mix itself.”

Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT)

Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT) asked the members of the panel to continue to engage with Congress.

“We need to continue to advocate for your voices; we have small business owners that truly are at risk and our culture has to give them that room. That’s our country; that’s our freedom,” he said.

Rep. Salud O. Carbajal (D-CA) asked Enders what the asphalt pavement industry’s main focus was, now that there is more clarity around Buy America exemptions.

Rep. Salud O. Carbajal (D-CA)

“The biggest priority for the asphalt pavement industry is sustainable funding,” Enders said. “The funding we have now, as I mentioned earlier, created over 1,300 projects in the state of Wisconsin predominantly where we work. But there are many more on the shelf and sustainable funding is something that could lead us to do those.”

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