A year-long effort to reform job-killing EPA regulations on the U.S. cement industry came to a head today on the House floor as Congressman John Carter led efforts to replace harsh new federal rules with commonsense environmental safeguards.
Carter began the fight to save the Portland cement industry in late 2010, as proposed EPA regulations threatened to move production to Asia. Carter today spoke in support of HR 2681, by Congressman John Sullivan (R-OK).
"This new regulation on the cement industry is the wrong rule, at the wrong time," Carter said on the floor. "It asks for too much, too soon. It is a rule based on questionable science that promises to export American jobs, and ultimately result in the import of pollution from other countries."
Carter told fellow lawmakers that the U.S. cement industry is suffering through the greatest decline since the 1930s with current employment down to a mere 15,000 jobs and less than $6.5 billion in 2010 annual revenues, a 25% reduction in employment and over 35% reduction in revenues from pre-recession levels. The cement and concrete product manufacturing sectors, combined, have shed more than 62,000 jobs between 2005 and 2009.
The House Republican Conference Secretary said the crippling new EPA red tape could be a death blow to an industry struggling to survive the economic downturn. "At this critical time when the cement industry can least afford significant investments from new mandates, analysts estimate that this single EPA rule will cost $3.4 billion in compliance costs, representing approximately half of the cement industry's annual revenues, leading to the closing of plants, stalling of plans for new plants, and laying off Americans with high paying jobs."
Carter pointed to the massive overkill of EPA regulations in comparison to the effort of most Western industrialized nations to reduce emissions with reasonable tightening of environmental regulations. The EPA standards are between 300-500% more stringent than those issued by the European Union (EU) this year to reduce hazardous air pollutant standards for European cement plants.
Carter also pointed that while the U.S. is up to five times more restrictive than Europe, China and India are continuing cement production with little or no safety standards, and will increase global pollution if U.S. plants are forced out of business by the EPA.
H.R. 2681, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act, would stay the NESHAP, CISWI and related rules for 15 months to give EPA the time to rewrite and finalize the rules; provide five years for cement facilities to comply once the rules are finalized, and directs EPA to reissue the rules in a manner that ensures achievability across the range of fuels and operating conditions and using the least burdensome approach to protect jobs, health and the environment.