Cement is vital to this nation’s infrastructure, the housing industry, and manufacturing and therefore to the economy and jobs, something high profile politicians and federal agency spokesmen continually say they are trying to protect and even expand. Therefore, it’s important that their words are not countered by their actions, and that we hold them accountable.
In the case of cement production, the EPA promulgated new air pollutant standards for the industry in late 2010. These Cement MACT (maximum achievable control technology) regulations call for reductions of 97 percent in acid gases, 92 percent in mercury, 83 percent in total hydrocarbons, 92 percent in particulate matter, 78 percent in sulfur dioxide, and 5 percent in nitrogen oxides, to be implemented by 2013.
Thunderstruck industry leaders say the overly-stringent rules are technologically unachievable at this time, and would send what’s left of America’s cement industry — about 100 cement plants — to foreign countries, with the loss of thousands of jobs — estimates say at least 4,000 — here at home. Some plants, approximately 18, would simply close; others would have to invest millions of dollars in order to comply with the new regulations.
The public sector accounts for 50 percent of the cement used in the nation. The industry has already invested tens of billions of dollars in new technologies and modernizing facilities besides recycling 12 million tons of urban and industrial byproducts such as tires, fly ash and wood chips per annum. These byproducts would have to be trucked to landfills if the cement industry would no longer be reusing them.
The former chairman of the Portland Cement Association, Dan Harrington said, “It is important to note that our industry is not averse to regulations…. 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 added, “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.” He urged Congress do everything it can to protect existing jobs through more reasonable regulations, and rollback the EPA’s more onerous ones.
The Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011, H.R. 2681, does just that. Introduced by Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) H.R. 2681, with 36 co-sponsors, is “To provide additional time for the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to issue achievable standards for cement manufacturing facilities, and for other purposes.” In other words Congress would issue a stay for the EPA’s pollutant rules that went into effect last fall while requiring the EPA to come up with more sensible and technologically achievable proposals.
The stakes are just too high for the cement industry, jobs, the economy and for the nation’s infrastructure to let the EPA’s heavy-handedness wreak further destruction.
Contact your Representative and Senators and get them to act quickly on H.R. 2681. But also tell them that it’s even more important to rein in the unaccountable EPA altogether, rather than rolling back in piecemeal fashion every set of rules it imposes on various industries and businesses.
Used with the permission of the John Birch Society.