Paris-leery EPA enlists cement, concrete interests in real pollution reduction

This month’s United Nations (Conference of Parties) COP 23 meeting in Bonn, Germany, will differ much from COP 21, the gathering that spawned the “historic” Paris Climate Accord. Delegates are sure to perpetuate the fretting that accompanied President Donald Trump’s decision to exit an agreement to reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.

Ignoring the proper U.S. Senate channels for ratifying what amounted to a treaty, President Barack Obama made the country a party to the Paris Accord, and envisioned the Environmental Protection Agency as the enforcement mechanism for related energy policy measures certain to cost American jobs and raise electricity rates for many.

President Trump and his staff have limited time for a boondoggle in Germany. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, for example, is tending to pertinent matters that promise meaningful pollution control and reduction. His agency has designated cement and concrete, construction, and iron and steel among 13 regulated industries to charter Smart Sectors, a partnership program whose collaborative approach, officials contend, provides an opportunity to pinpoint forward-thinking green measures.

“Smart Sectors is designed to effectively engage business partners throughout the regulatory process,” says Pruitt. “The previous administration created a narrative that you can’t be pro-business and pro-environment. This program is one of the many ways we can address that false choice and work together to protect the environment. When industries and regulators better understand each other, the economy, public, and environment all benefit.”

“We look forward to working with EPA to protect health and the environment while reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens that undermine economic growth,” noted Portland Cement Association Executive Vice President Todd Johnston, who was on hand for the Smart Sectors rollout. “America’s cement manufacturers have a strong track record of finding creative ways to reduce their environmental footprint while producing the high-quality material our economy needs for building everything from homes to highways and hospitals.”

A sector-based approach can provide such EPA-cited benefits as increased long-term certainty and predictability; creative solutions based on sound data; and, more sensible policies to improve environmental protection. Program leads for each sector will serve as ombudsmen within the Agency across program and regional offices. Staff will also conduct educational site tours; host roundtables; analyze data and advise about options for environmental improvement; and, maintain open dialogue with business partners and their environmental committees.

Joining Johnston at the Smart Sectors announcement were representatives of the Associated Builders & Contractors, Associated General Contractors of America and American Iron & Steel Institute, along with peers from aerospace, agriculture, automotive, chemical manufacturing, electronics and technology, forestry and wood products, mining, oil and gas, ports and marine, plus utilities and power generation groups.

“The program shows it’s a new day at EPA—and that’s good news for the environment and the economy,” said ABC CEO Michael Bellman. “The construction industry welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with regulators to ensure that environmental protection is streamlined and cost effective. That’s the way government can help industry create more jobs and grow the economy.”

“Finding a way to combine a deep knowledge of how to protect the environment with an understanding of how construction firms operate is the most effective way to craft programs and policies that deliver significant environmental protections to commercial construction sites,” added AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr. “The Administrator clearly understands that firms will be able to do more to protect the environment if the regulations they must follow are crafted with an understanding of how employers operate.”

Smart Sectors resurrects a program—shaped by President Bill Clinton’s Common Sense Initiatives and President George W. Bush’s Sector Strategies—that hit a brick wall with the Obama Administration. Credit President Trump and agency heads for directing their energies to constructive efforts like Smart Sectors, and letting others hyperventilate about flimsy global climate treaties.