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When Bad Rules Cost American Jobs

Op-Ed

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

All Americans support clean air and water. We have made tremendous progress over my lifetime in cleaning up old pollution and dramatically cutting new emissions, although there's much work left to do.

But when unelected bureaucrats ignore sound science and common sense and issue onerous regulations that not only fail to improve the environment but cost thousands of American jobs, it is time that elected officials step in to protect the public.

That is precisely what is happening this month with the filing of a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval against the EPA's proposed new rules for the Portland cement industry. Congress and the taxpayers deserve to know the truth on this attempt to impose flawed new air-quality rules on this vital segment of the U.S. construction industry.

First it is essential to separate fact from fiction, and that's not an easy task based on the flood of false statements of global extremists to justify the export of American jobs through scare tactics.

According to these groups, 10 cement plants in Texas emitted 225 pounds of mercury in 2009, while our total national mercury emissions are over 16,000 pounds a year. They then claim thousands of deaths and injuries. These numbers, like so many so-called "statistics" from the environmental left, are highly questionable. We discovered that last year from the deliberately falsified data behind their claims of man-made global warming.

Regardless of the numbers, all Americans would like to see mercury and all other air pollutants reduced and eventually eliminated wherever possible. We in fact have already reduced U.S. - originated mercury pollution by 60% since the 1950s, and we need to improve these efforts. A good new regulatory plan can do that.

But according to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association 75% of annual mercury pollution in the United States is now coming from outside our country. Ironically, over a third of that total is attributed to global airborne mercury deposits from Asian cement production, where there are no environmental controls.

China and India combined now account for more than two thirds of global cement production, while the U.S. produces just 4%. Even at this low global production level, the U.S. cement industry is intimately connected with our nation's manufacturers and infrastructure builders and employs 17,000 workers in highly paid and sought after jobs. It provides the construction industry -- which is currently suffering a record high 20% unemployment rate -- with quality cement produced in the United States.

The cement industry is also integrally involved in the production of drywall. Increasingly, our nation has started to rely on imports of Chinese drywall, which has resulted in quality control issues that have stymied U.S. regulators and adversely impacted the health and quality of life of thousands.

So in light of this, what does the EPA and allies propose? To slash U.S. Portland cement production, export thousands of good-paying American jobs, import dirty cement from China and India, and increase total global mercury pollution and airborne mercury pollution into the United States from Asia.

Industry analysts say the rule places 1,800 high-paying jobs at risk in the cement industry, another 9,000 jobs in the construction industry, will close 18 plants initially, and increase cement costs by as much as 15%.

We can do better. We can stop this bad rule dead in its tracks through the timely use of the CRA, which allows a straight up-or-down vote on the new rule in both the House and Senate.

We can follow by having the EPA sit back down at the table and produce a new rule that is guaranteed to reduce U.S. levels of mercury pollution, while protecting valuable American jobs.

This CRA challenge does not seek to block new air quality standards for the production of Portland cement. We instead demand a good rule that actually accomplishes the goal of better air quality here and abroad without an unnecessary loss of American jobs.

That's called Congressional oversight of unelected bureaucrats, a job the environmental extremists on the left will say anything to stop.


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