Automotive Recyclers descend upon Washington, D.C. to advocate for the industry with their legislators – taking time to smell the cherry blossoms along the way.
By Jessica Andrews & Delanne Bernier
The 11th annual ARA Hill Days and State Legislative Summit took place on April 9 and 10, as ARA members convened in our nation’s capital to advocate to their federal lawmakers and to focus in-depth on state legislative activity impacting the professional automotive recycling industry. Recyclers from nearly two dozen states participated in the two-day event, which also included the mid-year ARA Board of Directors meeting.
In addition, leadership from the Automotive Recyclers of Canada and ARA had a lengthy meeting at the Canadian Embassy located in Washington, D.C. to discuss the industry issues from both sides of the border.
The two-day event kicked off with the State Legislative Summit on Monday morning, April 9. Each year recyclers gather to identify and prioritize legislative issues trending in the states, share strategies and experience, and enhance ARA’s grassroots advocacy – and this year was no different. With a program led by Chair of ARA’s Governmental Affairs Committee and ARA Past President, Norman Wright (Stadium Auto Parts, Denver, CO), the day started off with a roundtable discussion that included updates from over 20 states. Topics discussed included state association lobby days, stormwater programs, environmental regulations, used tire legislation, detitling bills, taxation, and airbags. Representatives from several corporate members were also in attendance to share legislative priorities that span several states.
Attendees spent significant time focusing on the impact that OEM repair procedures are having and will have on the recycled parts market, and reviewed recent state legislation from Rhode Island. There was also discussion of communications that some auto recyclers have received in reference to EPA Superfund sites. ARA members were notified in a March 29 email blast about reports that recyclers were receiving such letters. The topic of electronic reporting was also discussed in depth as was the continuing problem of illegal dismantlers. The success of the state of California’s task force investigating illegal dismantling was reviewed as an example for other states.
During this same time, a delegation of Canadian recyclers, including current ARA President David Gold and Chair of the Automotive Recyclers of Canada Wally Dingman, visited the Canadian embassy along with ARA staff to discuss a variety of issues impacting recyclers, including trans-border trade and rare earth metals.
During a breakfast meeting before ARA members took to the Hill on Tuesday, April 10, attendees heard from Jason Levine, the Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety. Levine has an impressive background which includes work at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services. He spoke to members about the independence of the Center and the impact of automotive vehicles on the industry — particularly with respect to the supply chain and automotive recalls. Levine also emphasized the important role that he feels recycled parts play in ensuring consumer choice and consumer savings.
Levine added that the Rep. Kinzinger provision in the 2015 FAST Act requiring automakers to provide recyclers with recalled parts data is an important safety issue and the Center for Auto Safety submitted a letter late last year to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) pushing for its implementation.
Recyclers then took to the halls of Congress and participated in over 60 Congressional appointments to ask their federal representatives for assistance in putting pressure on NHTSA to implement the 2015 federal law requiring automakers to provide OEM parts data for recalled parts. ARA members also asked Members of Congress to co-sponsor and support H.R. 2460, which would require automakers to provide critical OEM parts data for all parts.
The Congressional feedback from the ARA member visits has been astounding. Dozens of House and Senate offices have reached out to ARA for more information and to inquire about how to assist with this issue. ARA staff has already met with numerous offices to follow-up.
During Tuesday’s lunch, a half-way point for many ARA members in their day of Congressional appointments, attendees were joined by California Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA). Issa is a strong supporter of the automotive recycling industry and of aftermarket parts in general. He stated that a “prohibition on selling used parts would be equal to a prohibition on selling used cars.” Issa spoke to attendees about the importance of constituent visits and gave some tips on how to engage with Members of Congress. ARA presented him with an award of appreciation made from a piston and the Congressman, who holds over 30 auto system patents, greatly enjoyed the gesture, the award and the opportunity to engage with ARA members.
It is safe to say that the spirit and energy rose to new levels during the 2018 meetings. Older and younger generations of recyclers came together with ARA leadership, industry stakeholders and international colleagues. Thanks to all that attended!
My ARA Hill Day • By Shan McMillon
My first experience participating in ARA Hill Days happened to coincide with the cherry blossoms being at peak bloom and they were more beautiful than I had imagined. It has been many years since I visited D.C., and still felt in awe of the history that we became immersed in as we walked the city blocks between meetings or roamed the capital admiring the beautiful architecture and statues. Becky Berube was a great mentor and tour guide for my first time – she tried to show me as much as possible during our limited time on the Hill and we were only asked to leave once! It might have been an unauthorized area … but I can neither confirm or deny. 🙂
Becky, Doug Reinert, Mike Swift, and I were invited to join Delanne Bernier and Michael Wilson at the Capitol Hill Club, the exclusive after-hours gathering place of Republican leadership. Although there were not any high profile players there that night, it was certainly an experience I will not forget.
I had three meetings scheduled: Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson and Bill Posey – all of which took place with aides. It was a great opportunity to educate them on who we are and what it is that we do as automotive recyclers. They were all very gracious and seemed interested in the implementation of the FAST Act, the primary reason for our visits this year. Understanding that their constituents safety is at risk due to the OE’s lack of compliance made the problem we are having more real to them. Chad Counselman and Delanne accompanied me on my visit to Bill Nelson’s office.
Auto Recyclers meet at the Canadian Embassy in D.C. • By Steve Fletcher
On April 9, 2018, representatives from the Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC) and the US-based Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) met with staff at the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC. The meeting was at the invitation of the Embassy to discuss areas in which auto recyclers on both sides of the border could better cooperate.
Late in 2017, ARA had reached out to the Embassy to request a congratulatory message to then incoming ARA President David Gold from Standard Auto Wreckers in Toronto, Port Hope and Ottawa. When the Embassy heard of a Canadian as an elected-President of a U.S. organization within an industry they knew little about, they had to hear more.
ARA staff set up in the meeting in conjunction with their Hill Days lobbying event, as David, along with Dalbert Livingstone from Charlottetown PEI would already be in Washington (Dalbert is the Canadian Regional Director and serves on the ARA Board of Directors). Along with myself, Wally Dingman of Caughill Auto Wreckers and the current ARC Chairman, and Ed MacDonald from Maritime Auto Parts and the Past President of both ARA and ARC also attended representing Canada. With the NAFTA re-negotiations underway, along with dangerous precedent setting of pending aluminum and steel tariffs and trade wars, the timing of the meeting was most interesting.
We covered a number of topics including the great working relationship between ARA and ARC; obstacles and opportunities to the import and export of parts, vehicles, scrap, and cores between the two countries; recalls and the roles auto recyclers should play; uninsured flood vehicles arriving in Canada and the safety implications; relationships with the OEMs; and the need for better data exchange with the OEMs on both sides of the border.
The “urban-mining” of vehicles for metals – ferrous, non-ferrous, platinum group, lithium, cobalt, and rare earth metals was a great discussion as both Canada and the USA undertake studies on sources and supply of these strategic metals. While there are obvious environmental and economic benefits to recycling these metals, both countries are looking to ensure a continental supply of these critical items, and auto recyclers are a key player in ensuring these materials are made available. The meeting concluded with a tour of the Embassy and a great photo opportunity from the rooftop patio overlooking the U.S. capital.
Opportunity • By Eric Wilbert
I was excited to have the opportunity to attend ARA Hill Days. Monday morning started with a round table discussion with a quick rundown of each state and the issues we are facing past or present. Also a few direct topics such as EPA Superfunds, OEM repair procedures and electronic reporting were discussed. After lunch, we were all invited to observe the ARA Board of Directors meeting. It was great to listen to the board and their enthusiasm to grow ARA and bring about change as well.
The following morning started off with a guest speaker Jason Levine from the Center for Auto Safety, who shared great insight regarding vehicle safety and automotive recalls. After a quick breakfast, it was time to get prepared for our state congressional appointments. Not having much background in meetings of this sort, it was nice to sit down with Delanne Bernier. The best advice from Delanne that stuck with me was to make your topic relative to the staffers that you meet with and do not be shocked by how young they are.
I had a short meeting schedule which was great for my first time. I had a 11 am with Senator Charles Schumer and 11:30 am with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. My meeting with Schumer’s office was a little late and was pushed out into the hallway. I spoke with Olivia Alves (left in photo) and discussed who we are what we represent.
As I am quickly learning, once you step outside of your industry, you need to start at square one when you are discussing automotive recycling. We spoke briefly about what a recycler is and then I directed the conversation into recalls and the safety concern that this raises for all consumers. We spoke about law signed by President Obama in December of 2015, but not followed by the OEs.
The next meeting was with Senator Gillibrand’s office, where I spoke with Gilbert Ruiz. He was very interested in what I had to say about automotive recalls and the safety concerns these cause with consumers. Without pushing the topic, Gilbert stated that he is comfortable that his office would sign a letter supporting our cause. This to me was a surprise and rewarding as obviously this is our goal.
The meetings were very educational for all parties.
I was interested to learn that neither aides I met with owned an automobile, and both probably were in there mid-20’s (Delanne was right).
The last, and I feel most important, aspect of any gathering of automotive recyclers is the networking that happens with past and present colleagues. I look forward to my career in the ever-changing and exciting industry of automotive recycling.