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The room where it happens: PILC sets priorities

June 12, 2018
Plumbing Industry Leadership Coalition sets priorities for the coming year, including advocacy and workforce development.

ONTARIO, CA – Because the Emerging Water Technology Symposium gathers so many different members of the water industry in one place, it would be a shame to waste the opportunity. So the morning of May 17th, the day after the Symposium concluded, saw the annual meeting of the Plumbing Industry Leadership Coalition (PILC).

The PILC was founded in 2011 by Plumbing Manufacturers International, the American Society of Plumbing Engineers and the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials. PILC is now comprised of 14 organizations representing contractors, engineers, manufacturers and water utilities who, despite sometimes different priorities, attempt to speak with one voice and help define the role of the plumbing industry.

In attendance were the convening partners of the Symposium, including members of PMI, ASPE, IAPMO, The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE), The Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the International Code Council (ICC), The American Rainwater Catchment System Association (ARCSA), The Copper Development Association (CDA), The American Supply Association (ASA) and others. Also in attendance were various industry partners and media members. Calling in was Michael Copp, Executive Vice President of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Organization, who took time out from organizing the PHCC’s Legislative Conference (see our cover story).

Opening business

·      Russ Chaney, IAPMO CEO welcomed attendees and opened the meeting by reviewing 2017 action items

·      Pete DeMarco, Executive VP of Advocacy and Research at IAPMO gave a brief run-down of the recent Technical Conference on managing Legionella and other pathogens, held in Baltimore, MD, May 9-11. DeMarco called the conference well-attended, with a lot of consultancies and a surprising number of chemical manufacturers.

·      Mary Ann Dickinson, AWE President/CEO brought up a pending resolution on encouraging legislation for tax rebates on WaterSense fixtures, noting that while individual states are already delivering, federal rebates are the goal.

·      Plans are in the works for a PILC web site. The hope is that the site will be built with open-source code, and based on a model similar to the High-Performance Building Coalition’s site. Two important issues remain: finding quality content, and managing costs.

·      The Energy Efficiency Standardization Coordination Coalition Roadmap is an effort to identify the next critical areas for energy and water efficiencies through standardizations and codes; Pete DeMarco expressed a wish to narrow the scope of the roadmap and develop the existing relationship with ANSI – while praising the great work already done with ICC and AWE.

·      Russ Chaney put forward a motion to send a letter from the PILC to ANSI encouraging the development of EESCC-GAP, an analysis to discover where critical gaps remain in codes and standards.

Legislative breakdown

Dain Harper of the High Performance Building Coalition then gave a presentation on legislative priorities for the coming months. It is, first and foremost, an election year. A lot is going on in a race to finish by late June. Once August hits, new legislation is not likely to happen.

The Omnibus Appropriations Bill has a lot put back in for the EPA, as well as outlays for the boarder wall and defense spending.

Legislative priorities affecting the industry include infrastructure (including water, block grants and rebates); an overhaul of the IRS; an energy package (to include water); and the Farm Bill, which, because it must pass, is a potential vehicle for helpful or harmful legislation.

'Each time you show up there’s a new person sitting in the chair.'

The Second Session of Congress, which we are currently in, is typically the most productive. Almost all the focus is on midterm elections, and on the very real likelihood that the House will flip from Republican to Democratic control. (The Senate is currently being seen as less and less likely to flip.)

Moving from the Legislative to the Executive branch, the Trump Administration has been slow to appoint new people, leaving a great number of vacant positions. This, combined with high turnover rates has led to a degree of paralysis; workers are still working, but they have no bosses to approve their work, so it simply stacks up.

Consequently, there is a need to constantly re-educate key people about the industry and its priorities. “Each time you show up,” Harper said, “there’s a new person sitting in the chair.” On the bright side, those agency heads who do the most work with the water/plumbing industry have turned out to be the longest serving, so progress is being made. Some examples include:

·      The Army Corps of Engineers received almost $800 million in the Omnibus Bill.

·      The EPA’s state revolving loan fund received $600 million

·      The Water Infrastructure Finance Authority could now support more than $6 billion in loans

And the big success story is the survival of the WaterSense program. Very nearly eliminated twice, the industry pushed back and won. The Omnibus Bill now contains language saying the program cannot be eliminated, and must be funded to 2017 levels. The program has a good deal of bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

Representatives of the CDA gave an update on the projected costs of the EPA’s new lead and copper regulation. Costs may range from $1,200 to $12,300 per line replaced. The CDA estimates the regulation could apply to approximately 9 to 10 million service lines across North America, equating to something on the order of $50 billion (and all this, they note, from regulation imposed by a Republican administration). Still to be answered: what will fall within the jurisdiction, and how might enactment be staged? The new regulation is supposed to be issued in February 2019.

Also of concern were the tariffs proposed by the Trump Administration (editors note: The PILC meeting took place before the announcement of a new raft of tariffs on Canadian, Mexican and European manufacturers on May 31st). The Tax Foundation estimates the impact at around $9 billion based on 2017 numbers.

Right-sizing plumbing systems

Dr. Juneseok Lee, PhD, P.E., gave a presentation on Premise Plumbing, a joint research project conducted between Purdue, Michigan State, San Jose State University and Tulane, all under a three-year EPA grant.

Dr. Lee discussed how extraordinarily complex modern plumbing systems have become, with very diverse applications. Building water use has been declining since 1992, but is no longer declining as rapidly as it once was; the “low hanging fruit” of water efficiency may have already been gathered. The main drivers of efficiency in the past decade have been green engineering, the sustainability movement and necessity due to scarcity.

The project involved full scale test sites and the help of both association partners and government collaborators. Its objectives were three-fold:

·      To improve the public’s understanding of decreased flows

·      To elucidate factors that affect water quality

·      To create risk-based decision support tools

A centerpiece of the project was the ReNEWW House: Retrofitted, Net-zero Energy, Water and Waste. The 2014 renovation involved new PEX plumbing. In 2015 the PEX was removed and new PEX installed. Along the way researchers conducted extensive water metering and sampling and managed to collect 64 million data points.

Specific recommendations developed by the collaborative workshop included:

·      The need for better understanding and obtaining actionable data

·      The need for effective codes and standards

·      The need to understand the relation between materials and water quality to address the vulnerabilities of water quality across different buildings


Mike Adelizzi, Executive Vice President for the ASA gave a presentation on possibilities for expanding the value and effectiveness of the PILC moving forward.

He focused on three main areas as revealed from the 2017 member survey: advocacy (in particular government relations and PILC branding), workforce development (including a full-scale campaign to attract new workers and a high-schools training program initiative), and research opportunities.

Much of the rest of the meeting was given over to discussion of how best to collaborate on research, and where and how the funding would be obtained.

Pete DeMarco (IAPMO) said it would take a number of full-time employees to make such a research program a reality. Research, he noted, is hard, a huge investment in time, and involves disparate interests that need to be protected.

Andy Kiretka (CDA) said it was important to build the PILC brand, and that the High Performance Buildings Coalition presented a good model. On the research side, he could see the need for good research data, but could not envision his organization committing funds without a clear understanding of how the money would be spent beforehand. A list of research priorities to use as a roadmap would make it an easier “sell” to his organization.

Michale Copp (PHCC) observed that everyone in attendance was about bringing value to their constituencies, and research was a good way to do that; there is no way to either fight or promote legislation without the numbers to back up your arguments. However, he stressed the need for a formal structure that would keep in mind the separate needs of different members.

After lunch, the PILC agreeded to send a letter to ASHRAE about the proposed 90.2 residential energy standard, saying that having flow rates incorporated in all the different standards would cause a great deal of needless conflict and confusion.

Other topics were briefly discussed, then the group made tentative plans for next years’ meeting and adjourned.

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