The committee passage of “Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011” (H.R. 2681) by the House Energy and Commerce Committee illustrates the importance of putting in place regulations that protect American lives and American jobs, says the PCA.
The bill next moves on to consideration by the full House, planned for the week of October 3. 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 recent bill testimony, 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 unemployment levels.
“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 revitalising the nation’s waterways, bridges, highways and tunnels.”
The cement industry directly provides 13,000 Americans with high-wage jobs. When allied industries are considered, it accounts for nearly US$27.5bn of 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.”