TAKE ACTION: Support Buy Clean Policies

Asphalt Industry Needs to Support Buy Clean Policies


I was recently asked a question from a peer, “Why do you think the Buy Clean issue (procuring low-embodied carbon asphalt) has not taken off as promised when the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was enacted by Congress in 2022.”


The answer to that question is complicated but comes down to this, implementing and deploying new pavement technologies through Federal grants and incentives, authorized in complicated legislation, and subject to interpretation by multiple Federal agencies, has a lot of trip wires.  There are also many stakeholders to consider as well.  What could go wrong?


Rolling out new Federal policies that pressure the states to start thinking about – and taking action on – reducing carbon emissions in the construction materials they are using on their roads requires leadership from state elected officials.  Not just one or two states, but every state.


Buying into the idea that asphalt companies can grow their market by utilizing low-embodied carbon asphalt requires vision from company owners and CEO’s.  How many CEO’s from publicly traded companies will bring this issue up during the 1st quarter 2024 earnings calls with investors?


Lastly, and most importantly, the engineering community, of which the asphalt construction industry has some of the finest in the world, must stop thinking about the limitations and start engineering for the possibilities of low-embodied carbon paving materials on our nation’s roads and highways.  The fixation on “feasibility” means we never move forward or make progress in reducing carbon emissions.


Partnership among these stakeholder groups on this issue is key to successful implementation, and that starts with the Federal government issuing clear, practical guidance – or interpretation – of how these key IRA provisions are intended to work in practice.  After that, it’s up to each state transportation agency, each asphalt company, and the engineering community to work in partnership to spur the manufacture and deployment of low-embodied carbon asphalt.


At this time, there are three recent Federal announcements that are important to be aware, understand, and work together in order to implement Buy Clean policies for the American people.


  1. EPA proposed rules to identify and label “Low-Embodied Carbon Asphalt” eligible for FHWA and General Services Administration grants totaling over $4 billion. The draft approach for the Label Program proposes to standardize and improve the data that asphalt manufacturers use in developing Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), which disclose asphalt mixes Global Warming Potential (GWP) impacts. EPA by which it would use data from EPDs and other sources to set thresholds – or GWP limits – for embodied carbon asphalt mix can have, relative to similar mixes to qualify for the “substantially lower” embodied carbon The final phase of the draft approach is to certify asphalt mixes materials and products and to create a central registry to house the information.


  1. EPA’s issued proposed criteria for “Product Category Rules” (PCR) to support the Label Program for Low-Embodied Carbon Construction Materials (PCR Criteria). PCR Criteria sets the rules that enables the development of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). The National Asphalt Pavement Association is the program operator for the asphalt industry’s EPD program.  The PCR rules for asphalt will have to meet the proposed PCR criteria or the industry will be ineligible for the LCTM grants.


  1. Lastly, the FHWA announced a Request for Applications (RPA) under the “Low Carbon Transportation Materials (LCTM) Grant Program.” FHWA stated it will use a hybrid approach to release the funding, with $1.2 billion for State DOTs to apply for now, and $800 million for local governments to apply for later. FHWA is requesting each state submit one responsive grant application by June 10, 2024, for up to $22 million in projects utilizing low embodied carbon asphalt, concrete, glass, or steel. LCTM grant funds may be used on all USC Title 23 eligible construction projects utilizing these materials that meet the standard of “lower embodied carbon” as determined by the EPA in its December 12, 2022 Interim Determination.


There are more pieces to the puzzle in understanding and implementing a Federal Buy Clean program.  But these three initiatives are important to understand and for stakeholders develop strategies to address both the hurdles and opportunities the Federal Buy Clean initiative presents.


I have worked on Federal transportation policy since 1986 and from where I sit, I do not see these policies going away.  In fact, with the next surface transportation reauthorization bill on the legislative agenda for the next Congress, these policies can easily be turned into mandates if grants and incentives do not move the states, the asphalt industry, and the engineering community to get involved and act with purpose to address the climate crisis.


Jay Hansen joined Surface Tech following a long and distinguished career at the National Asphalt Pavement Association and in the U.S. Congress where he worked on legislation from the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act (ISTEA) in 1991, to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) in 2021. Jay will serve as an ongoing resource for Surface Tech customers to help them get ahead of the growth curve and be ready for shifting market conditions as they occur in 2023 and beyond.

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As a leader with both creative and analytical skills, Jason oversees the planning, development, and execution of Surface Tech’s marketing and advertising strategies. He has been responsible of late for clarifying the company’s value proposition through a series of new branding executions resulting in a revamped website and other improvements in the company’s strategic marketing initiatives.

Jason brings more than 25 years of industrial design, branding, and manufacturing experience to his new role as CMO. His work has appeared in leading design publications, and he has received numerous international design awards. His portfolio includes more than 40 design and utility patents in the fields of consumer electronics, software, packaging, medical devices, and software. Speed to market, with a critical eye for detail and simplicity, is the driving force behind his multidisciplinary design process.

Jason holds a BS in Industrial Design from The Ohio State University. His previous work experience includes Nike, Proctor & Gamble, Skylab Architecture, and founder of New Studio. 

Stacie Steel

U.S. Northwest

Stacie Steel, PE, offers a depth of experience in asphalt and concrete pavements. She has provided infrastructure-related civil engineering and project management consulting services to both public and private sector clients for the past 20 years.

Stacie’s technical expertise centers around all things pavements: structural design, materials design and specifications, sustainability, life-cycle cost analyses, pavement management, preservation and rehabilitation, QA/QC, materials testing, and forensic evaluations.

Throughout her career, she has worked on paving projects for many national commercial retailers, municipalities, and airports. Stacie has proven leadership and organizational capabilities, as evidenced by earning the President’s Choice Award from the WTS Colorado Chapter early in her career. She currently serves on the WTS Puget Sound Chapter’s TransportationYOU Committee, and is dedicated to ensuring access to local outdoor recreation opportunities serving on the Board of Directors for the Lonesome Lake Preservation Group.