US to prioritize purchase of green construction materials, including steel

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The Biden administration announced new actions Sept. 15 to prioritize the purchase of low-carbon-emissions construction materials, including steel, for use in federally funded projects.

The federal government will prioritize the purchase of steel, concrete, asphalt and flat glass that have fewer embedded emissions associated with their manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance and disposal, according to a White House fact sheet.

In addition to federal procurement, the Buy Clean actions also will cover federally funded projects, the White House said, noting the Department of Transportation is administering more than $120 billion in infrastructure spending in fiscal year 2022.

The White House said it is taking these actions to spur the development of low-carbon-emissions construction materials made in the US. The US federal government is the largest direct purchaser in the world and a major infrastructure funder, the White House said.

Along with prioritizing purchases of green materials, the White House also will increase data transparency through supplier reporting to help American manufacturers track and reduce emissions, it said.

The new actions under the federal “Buy Clean” initiative were announced by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, US General Services Administration Administrator Robin Carnahan, and Deputy National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi during a visit to Cleveland-Cliffs’ direct reduction plant in Toledo, Ohio.

Cliffs’ natural gas DR plant, completed in 2020, supplies hot-briquetted iron (HBI), a low-carbon iron feedstock used in the company’s blast furnaces, basic oxygen furnaces and electric-arc furnaces.

“The Cleveland-Cliffs direct reduction steel plant represents the future of US clean manufacturing, producing a lower-carbon intermediary feedstock product that is integrated into steel plate used in a wide variety of products purchased by the federal government, including automobiles, electricity grid transformers, bridge decks, offshore wind platforms, naval submarines, and train tracks,” the White House said.

The Biden administration first announced the formation of its Buy Clean Task Force in February.

“We are pleased that the administration continues to recognize that the American steel industry is leading the way on decarbonization, as reflected in today’s announcement to prioritize the government’s purchase of lower-emissions construction materials for federally funded projects,” Kevin Dempsey, CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute, said in a statement . “Of the major steel-producing countries, the US has the lowest CO2 emissions per ton of steel produced. Our entire industry continues to make key investments to further decrease carbon emissions and advance our leadership position on sustainability.”