Recent passage of “Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011” (H.R. 2681) by the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power is a significant step towards regulations that protect American lives and American 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 its change in the definition of “solid waste,” and the new source performance standards rule.
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.
During bill testimony last week, Dan Harrington, president and CEO of Lehigh Hanson, Inc., and former chair of the Portland Cement Association (PCA), said that failure to pass the cement act would be counterproductive to improving the nation’s infrastructure and job sector.
“The Agency also does not account for the impact of these closures outside the cement sector. 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,” Harrington testified. “As the economy hopefully rebounds, a decrease in domestic production will require an increase in imported cement to meet demand. The result will be increased costs in revitalizing the nation’s waterways, bridges, highways and tunnels which, in turn, will only place more burdens on the nation’s already stressed state and municipal budgets.”
The cement industry directly provides 15,000 Americans with high-wage jobs. When allied industries are considered, it accounts for nearly $27.5 billion of the gross domestic product (GDP).
“[H.R. 2681] will create the opportunity for the issuance of reasonable and balanced regulations … thereby giving the domestic industry time to get back on its feet financially,” Harrington said. “These basic elements of the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act – a re-proposal of the rules, followed by an extension of the compliance deadline – provide a win-win opportunity for American workers and the nation’s environment. This bipartisan bill is also consistent with the President’s executive order issued earlier this year calling for reasonable regulations.”
Reflecting the Congress’ widespread concern regarding job loss, in addition to Reps. Sullivan and Ross, H.R. 2681 is co-sponsored by Reps. Jason Altmire (D-PA), Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Joe Barton (R-TX), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Dan Boren (D-OK), John Carter (R-TX), Charlie Dent (R-PA), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Tim Holden (D-PA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Larry Kissell (D-NC), Bob Latta (R-OH), David McKinley (R-WV), Bill Posey (R-FL), Nick Rahall (D-WV), David Rivera (R-FL), Greg Walden (R-OR) and Allen West (R-FL).