Recent bipartisan passage of “Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011” (H.R. 2681) by the U.S. House of Representatives illustrates the importance of putting in place balanced regulations that preserve jobs.
Introduced by Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK) and Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR), along with a bipartisan group of their colleagues, the legislation requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to re-propose three recent environmental rules directed at the portland cement industry. Although domestic cement manufacturers are among the most highly regulated enterprises in the country, they recently faced an avalanche of new regulations. The bill addresses the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) rule for the portland cement industry, the commercial and industrial solid waste incinerator rule and associated definition of “solid waste,” and, lastly, the new source performance standards rule.
Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced a companion bill in last month.
“Passage of this legislation allows the industry to continue its dialogue with EPA with the goal of crafting rational and feasible emission standards,” Brian McCarthy, president and CEO of the Portland Cement Association (PCA) said. “We are not shying away from environmental regulations. We have a long history of investing in continuous improvements that preserve U.S. manufacturing capacity and the economy.”
A recent study found that one of these regulations alone – NESHAP – will force the closure of approximately 18 of the United States’ nearly 100 cement manufacturing plants. The production volume lost by these closures will require cement to be sourced from other countries, thereby exporting thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs and importing cement from countries with emissions standards much weaker than those already in place in the U.S.
According to McCarthy, the plant closures will hit areas that can least afford an economic downturn. Cement plants are often located in small towns where the plant is the tax base of the community. Not only does the community lose jobs, but also a strong contributor of tax revenue and a key supporter of local schools, charities and activities.
In addition, plant closures would be counterproductive to improving the nation’s infrastructure as well as unemployment in the construction industry.
“Disruptions to the availability of domestic cement supplies will have adverse impacts on the nation’s beleaguered construction sector, which is currently suffering from an unemployment rate of nearly 20 percent,” McCarthy said. “As the economy hopefully rebounds, a decrease in domestic production will require an increase in imported cement to meet demand. This could increase the costs of revitalizing the nation’s waterways, bridges, highways and tunnels. We commend the House for passing legislation designed to save jobs and the economy and look forward similar support in the Senate.”
The cement industry directly employs 13,000 Americans with high-wage jobs. When allied industries are considered, it accounts for nearly $27.5 billion of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Reflecting the Congress’ widespread concern regarding job loss, in addition to Reps. Sullivan and Ross, H.R. 2681 was co-sponsored by Reps. Jason Altmire (D-PA), Steve Austria (R-OH), Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Joe Barton (R-TX), Dan Benishek (R-MI), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Dan Boren (D-OK), Larry Bucshon (R-IN), John Carter (R-TX), Howard Coble (R-NC), Mark Critz (D-PA), Charlie Dent (R-PA), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Randy Forbes (R-VA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Tim Holden (D-PA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Larry Kissell (D-NC), Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Bob Latta (R-OH), David McKinley (R-WV), Alan Nunnelee (R-MS), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Bill Posey (R-FL), Nick Rahall (D-WV), David Rivera (R-FL), Mike Rogers, (R-AL), Thomas Rooney (R-FL), Steve Southerland (R-FL), Lee Terry (R-NE), Greg Walden (R-OR), Allen West (R-FL), and Rob Woodall (R-GA).