The U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011” (H.R. 2681), a bill designed to address the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) rule for the portland cement industry; the commercial and industrial solid-waste incinerator rule and associated definitions of “solid waste;” and the new source performance standards rule.
Introduced by Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) and Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ariz.), 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, according to the Portland Cement Association (PCA).
Senators John Barrasso (R-Wy.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) introduced a companion bill in the Senate last month.
“Passage of this legislation allows the industry to continue its dialogue with EPA with the goal of crafting rational and feasible emission standards,” Brian McCarthy, PCA’s president and CEO said. “We are not shying away from environmental regulations. We have a long history of investing in continuous improvements that preserve U.S. manufacturing capacity and the economy.”
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. The production volume lost by these closures will require cement to be sourced from other countries, thereby exporting thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs and importing cement from countries with emissions standards much weaker than those already in place in the U.S.
According to McCarthy, the plant closures will hit areas that can least afford an economic downturn. Cement plants are often located in small towns where the plant is the tax base of the community. Not only does the community lose jobs, but also a strong contributor of tax revenue and a key supporter of local schools, charities and activities. In addition, plant closures would be counterproductive to improving the nation’s infrastructure as well as unemployment in the construction industry.
“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,” McCarthy said. “As the economy hopefully rebounds, a decrease in domestic production will require an increase in imported cement to meet demand. This could increase the costs of revitalizing the nation’s waterways, bridges, highways and tunnels. We commend the House for passing legislation designed to save jobs and the economy, and look forward to similar support in the Senate.”