Lehigh Hanson chief to lawmakers: EPA regs could doom 18 cement plants

Source: Portland Cement Association, Skokie, Ill.

This week’s passage of “Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011” (H.R. 2681) by the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power is being touted as a significant step towards regulations that protect American lives and American jobs. Testifying in Washington, D.C., before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce just prior to the bill’s passage, Dan Harrington, president and CEO of Lehigh Hanson, Inc., and former PCA chair, stressed to Congress that inaction on onerous EPA regulations could force the closure of 18 of the nearly 100 U.S. cement plants and result in the direct loss of 4,000 high-paying manufacturing jobs. Led by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, the hearings focused on H.R. 2681, as well as the “EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011,” (H.R. 2250), which addresses boilers and incinerators.

Introduced by Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK) and Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR), along with a bipartisan group of their colleagues, H.R. 2681 requires EPA to re-propose three recent environmental rules directed at domestic portland cement manufacturers—among the most highly regulated enterprises in the country. The bill addresses the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) rule for portland cement the commercial and industrial solid waste incinerator rule and its change in the definition of “solid waste,” and the new source performance standards rule.

A recent study found that one of these regulations NESHAP alone would force the closure of approximately 18 of the United States’ nearly 100 cement manufacturing plants. According to PCA, the cement industry directly provides 15,000 Americans with high-wage jobs. When allied industries are considered, it accounts for nearly $27.5 billion of the gross domestic product (GDP).

During the recent hearings, Lehigh’s Harrington said that failure to pass the cement act would be counterproductive to improving the nation’s infrastructure and job sector. “The Agency does not account for the impact of these closures outside the cement sector,” he testified. “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.

“[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 added. “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.”

Harrington’s original full testimony is available at: http://www.cement.org/newsroom/HR2681_Harrington_Testimony.pdf