Cement Regulatory Relief legislation clears the House

Sources: Portland Cement Association, Skokie, Ill.; National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, Silver Spring, Md.

Today’s bipartisan passage of “Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011” (H.R. 2681) by the U.S. House of Representatives was overwhelmingly called a triumph by construction industry leaders. A year-long effort to reform what they believed would be job-killing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations on the U.S. cement industry came to a head with legislation that seeks to replace harsh new federal rules with commonsense environmental safeguards.

Introduced by Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK) and Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR), along with a bipartisan group of their colleagues, the legislation requires 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 cement, the commercial and industrial solid waste incinerator rule and associated definition of “solid waste,”  and, lastly, the new source performance standards rule.

Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced a companion bill in 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, president and CEO of PCA 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.

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 similar support in the Senate.”

Earlier this week, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association Chairman Karl Watson, president of CEMEX USA, NRMCA Board of Directors member Hardy Johnson, chief governmental/public affairs officer, Titan America, and NRMCA Board member Brad Slabaugh, vice president and general manager, Hilltop Basic Resources, were invited by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to help educate House members about the challenges facing the ready mixed concrete and cement industries if these EPA regulatory priorities were allowed to be implemented.

During a private meeting with House GOP leaders, including Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), McCarthy, and Majority Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R-IL), Watson and Slabaugh began the discussion by sharing how EPA’s rules would impact their companies and further stifle their ability to recover from the economic downturn. The two were also invited to participate in a weekly meeting of approximately 60 members of the House Majority Whip team to help rally support for the vote.

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