Worries about a budgetary pinch on construction and other domestic programs are continuing, based on early House results of fiscal year 2006 spending bills. The results aren’t final–the Senate has yet to be heard from–but among the hardest hit construction programs so far is Environmental Protection Agency water infrastructure, particularly aid to clean water state revolving funds. Click here to view table

"We’re starting to see a federal government whose revenues are not growing fast enough to accommodate growth for important construction programs and growth in military and mandatory spending," says Jeffrey D. Shoaf, Associated General Contractors’ senior executive director for government and public affairs.

Some of the pro-defense attitude shows up in House results for military construction, including a 30% hike for new family housing.

Another winner is the Dept. of Veterans Affairs’ major construction account. VA has launched a $6-billion, multi-year drive to reshape its health-care network, including new Sunbelt facilities. The House bill’s largest VA construction item: $199 million for a Las Vegas hospital.

New House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) says he wants to move all 12 of the fiscal 2006 spending measures through the chamber by the July 4 recess. By May 23, two had passed the House and two more cleared committee.

Infrastructure supporters say that they will push in the Senate to add to the House number for clean water. "We’re very disappointed about the SRF funding," says AGC’s Shoaf. "That was an area where we had hoped to make ground."

The House’s $850-million allotment would be "an enormous cut," $500 million since 2004, notes Adam Krantz, National Association of Clean Water Agencies’ managing director for government and public affairs. But Krantz sees support in the Senate. He cites a May 2 letter from 51 senators supporting at least $1.35 billion in 2006 for the revolving funds.

DOE: Bush Taps Agency Insider As Cleanup Chief
President Bush has moved to fill a key Dept. of Energy post with the May 17 nomination of James A. Rispoli, head of DOE’s engineering and construction management office, to be its assistant secretary for environmental management. If the Senate confirms Rispoli, he would lead DOE’s massive effort to clean up the network of former nuclear weapons plants around the country. The program’s 2005 budget is $6.8 billion.

Rispoli has an engineering background. Before coming to the Energy Dept. in 1999, he was a Dames & Moore vice president and managing principal for the firm’s Pacific Ocean area operations. Rispoli is a Navy and Air Force veteran. If approved, he would succeed Jessie Roberson, who resigned last July.

EPA: Blending Policy Halted for Overflows
The Environmental Protection Agency said May 19 that it will not go forward with the controversial guidelines it proposed in November 2003 to allow partially treated wastewater to be released with fully treated wastewater from publicly owned treatment facilities during heavy storms.

That process, known as blending, "is not a long-term solution," says Benjamin Grumbles, EPA’s assistant administrator for water. Supporters claim blending eases capacity pressures for aging and outdated infrastructure. "Our goal is to reduce overflows and increase treatment of wastewater," Grumbles says. EPA says it will consider "other options" to address pollutant discharges in wet weather but provided no further details. The agency’s decision came as the House voted to block spending on blending.

Safety: OSHA Trains First Responders
Based on lessons learned in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a new training program for first responders who provide skilled support in emergency response and recovery operations at disaster sites.

OSHA's program focuses on hazard awareness, personal protective equipment and decontamination. Instructors include construction safety trainers.

Compiled by Sherie Winston and Tom Ichniowski