Washington — The plastics industry is making a major lobbying push in state capitols to open more of the huge government infrastructure market to plastic pipe, arguing that legacy laws favor traditional materials like ductile iron and concrete.
Plastics industry lobbyists say it's likely a years-long project, but they see a potentially significant payoff: The American Chemistry Council estimates that at least 50 percent of the pipe infrastructure market in storm water and drinking water is off limits to plastic because of regulations.
"What we're trying to do here is increase the size of the opportunities in the market for plastic pipe and break down those barriers that have created virtual monopolies for other materials," said Keith Christman, managing director of plastic markets for Washington-based ACC.
But the campaign is getting significant pushback, both in state capitols and Washington.
Opposition is coming not only from competitive materials, like ductile iron pipe makers, but also from material-neutral water utility organizations like the American Water Works Association.
AWWA said it is not taking sides in material choices but says the changes pushed by the plastics industry would hamstring decision making by local water utilities and "lead to a significant increase in bid protests and litigation."
"We should not adopt a one-size-fits-all, top-down mandate from the state on unique decisions that are best handled by design professionals and local entities," AWWA said in a policy statement. AWWA officials did not respond to requests for comment.