The White House’s Infrastructure Goals Risk Disruption – By the White House

By Louis Baer

For Americans to start seeing evidence of the Biden Administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) taking shape in their hometowns, the construction industry will need building materials to do the work. Should a newly proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) particulate matter (PM) standard take effect in the next few weeks, those materials might not be readily available over the course of the next few years.

The actual proposed reduction may seem small, but it would be an enormous change if put into practice. Meeting this change would not only hurt local communities, but it would also thwart the Biden Administration’s flagship IIJA goals.

Dependence on Construction Materials
To comply with the lower standard, U.S. manufacturers may have to cut back hours of operation, which would lead to fewer construction materials being produced, potential layoffs at manufacturing plants and inevitable delays in construction.

In other words, if the Administration chooses to move forward with the new EPA standard, it could be hindering its own plan to revamp the nation’s infrastructure – a $550-billion agenda – and the opportunities to provide building materials would be punted to the U.S. construction industry’s competitors overseas. The supplies in other countries would likely be ready and in abundance, as the U.S. enforces some of the strictest emissions regulations in the world, and America’s manufacturers follow them or are shut down.

The Real State of PM Progress
Those in the nation’s construction industry do care and continue to take action to improve the environment and the air we breathe. For decades, the U.S. cement, concrete, and aggregates industries have spent millions on state-of-the-art technologies to adhere to EPA standards and yield more sustainable products.

Currently, the U.S. cement industry contributes only a 0.1% share of the PM emissions being targeted, and through the efforts of regulated industry and government officials, PM emissions have been reduced by 37% during the last two decades. This downward trend will continue through programs already on the books, including the PM standards EPA retained in 2020.

Resilience of U.S. Construction Materials
Our industries have invested heavily in efforts to make our products more sustainable because of one simple truth: We are aware of how much society depends on these materials essential in construction, and we know life would be completely disrupted without them.

These materials are not frivolous or luxury items that only accommodate some of the population. They are not a fleeting architectural fad that is in vogue today and outdated tomorrow. They are likely the foundation of the home or building where you currently sit, the sidewalk under your feet, and the roads and bridges you rely on to get you where you need to go.

For centuries, U.S. construction materials have proven to be resilient, reliable, and strong. We checked those boxes long ago. This is why our industries are focusing now – more than ever – on making them more sustainable.

Bridging the Gap
The IIJA promises $550 billion in construction projects by 2026, which means manufacturers will need to supply tens of millions of tons of their products for those projects to happen. If anything, there is a need for greater investment in U.S. building material production capabilities.

The nation’s manufacturers are well-regulated. They have been for decades. Costly new regulations would negatively impact the U.S. construction industry, ramp up sales in the U.S. for foreign competitors, and we would all witness the same presidential administration that worked so steadfastly to champion the IIJA become the very administration to stifle it.

PCA, along with the National Stone Sand and Gravel Association, and the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, urges the Biden Administration to withdraw the pending Proposed Reconsideration of the PM NAAQS.

Louis Baer is senior director/counsel, government affairs for the Portland Cement Association. Contact him at [email protected].

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