OPINION: Detroit News Editorial "Revise EPA Rules for Cement Plants"

August 12, 2011

Editorial: Revise EPA rules for cement plants
Loss of direct and indirect jobs would negatively hit already ailing economy if rules are not revised
August 12, 2011

The EPA has forged a set of rules governing emissions from cement manufacturing plants that could dramatically reduce the number of plants in the United States.

Fortunately, a bipartisan coalition of House members has produced legislation that would require the agency to take a more realistic approach to regulation. It should be adopted.

The legislation has the support of House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, who said it "inserts much-needed common sense into the rule-making process."

At issue are three related regulations governing plant emissions and solid waste disposal. The industry contends that the rules would impose a combined total of $5.4 billion in costs when fully implemented, which even if exaggerated could amount to a major chunk of its entire annual revenues of $6.5 billion.

In addition, the trade association for the manufacturers, the Portland Cement Association, contends that when the rules do go into effect, the industry may have to shutter as many as 18 of the 93 cement manufacturing plants in the United States. Portland cement refers to a manufacturing process.

Michigan has two cement plants; one in Alpena and one in Charlevoix.

The legislation would require the EPA within 15 months to revisit and rewrite the rules to make them achievable; extend compliance deadlines from three to five years; and make sure the regulations are the least burdensome to the U.S. cement makers to preserve U.S. jobs.

The industry estimates that the current rules could result in the loss of at least 3,000 jobs in cement manufacturing itself and at least 12,000 lost construction jobs.

Certainly, industries have a tendency to resist new environmental regulations and a certain discount should be applied to claims of job loss and compliance costs.

But a committee analysis notes that the EPA itself estimates that 12 plants may have to be idled and 1,500 jobs would be lost.

The environment has to be protected and emissions from cement plants need to be cleaner and safer.

But the question is whether it can be done in a reasonable amount of time without crippling the industry.

It shouldn't be too much to ask that EPA rules be achievable and cost-effective.

Read the article online here.