Testifying before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Dan Harrington, president and CEO of Lehigh Hanson, Inc., and former chair of the Portland Cement Association (PCA), stressed to Congress that inaction on onerous EPA regulations will result in the direct loss of 4,000 high-paying manufacturing jobs and have an adverse impact on the nation’s beleaguered construction sector.
Led by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), chair of theSubcommittee on Energy and Power, the hearings focused on the "EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011," (H.R. 2250), which addresses boilers and incinerators, and the "Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011" (H.R. 2681). Harrington explained how regulations currently facing the cement industry could force the closure of 18 of the nearly 100 U.S. cement plants and result in the loss of 4,000 manufacturing jobs.
"It is important to note that our industry is not averse to regulations, and we continually demonstrate our commitment to energy efficiency and environmental stewardship. However, the regulations this legislation addresses cannot come at a worse time given our nation’s and our industry’s current economic situation. If the Administration is serious about balancing environmental interests with growing jobs, then they will take serious steps toward curbing multiple EPA rules that create barriers to investment," Harrington said. "Now is the time to do everything possible to not only find new job opportunities, but preserve the jobs that are at risk, like the thousands of manufacturing job in rural communities. The nation’s economy will not recover unless we start doing all we can to protect the good paying jobs that we already have. EPA downplays the consequence of these job losses, but the realities are that these jobs will not be readily absorbed in the communities where most plants are located."
He emphasized in his remarks that failure to pass the cement act would be counterproductive to improving the nation’s infrastructure.
"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. 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."
Last week President Obama called on Congress to quickly re-authorize bills that fund highway and aviation expansion. The public sector accounts for as much as 50 percent of the cement used in the United States. He also requested that EPA withdraw a controversial ozone rule, which he justified by claiming, "I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover." PCA applauds this decision and looks forward to similar accommodations regarding the EPA regulatory challenges confronting the cement industry addressed by H.R. 2681.
The cement industry, already one of the most heavily regulated industrial sectors, has invested tens of billions of dollars in modernizing and expanding facilities with state-of-the-art technologies that significantly reduce the industry’s environmental footprint. The cement industry recycles 12 million tons a year of industrial and urban byproducts, like tires, fly ash and wood chips that would otherwise be land-filled.
"[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."