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Carter: When Bad Regulation Costs American Jobs

It is a sad day in this country when our elected Representatives can’t tell fact from fiction on environmental issues. But it is absolutely unacceptable when they use the falsehoods of global extremists to justify the export of American jobs and increase global air pollution.

That is precisely the position that Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) supported in her opinion piece last week on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed new rules for the Portland cement industry. Congress and the taxpayers deserve to know the truth on this attempt to impose flawed new air-quality rules on this vital segment of the U.S. construction industry.

Rep. Johnson claims that 10 cement plants in Texas emitted 225 pounds of mercury in 2009 and that our total national mercury emissions are more than 16,000 pounds a year. Those numbers, like so many “statistics” from the environmental left, are highly questionable. We discovered that last year from the deliberately falsified data behind its claims of man-made global warming.

Regardless of the numbers, all Americans would like to see mercury and all other air pollutants reduced and eventually eliminated wherever possible. We in fact have already reduced U.S.-originated mercury pollution by 60 percent since the 1950s, and we need to go further. A good new regulatory plan can do that.

But what Rep. Johnson failed to mention is that according to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, 75 percent of annual mercury pollution in the United States is now coming from outside our country. Ironically, more than a third of that total is attributed to global airborne mercury deposits from Asian cement production, where there are no environmental controls.

China and India combined now account for more than two-thirds of global cement production, while the U.S. produces just 4 percent. Even at this low global production level, the U.S. cement industry is intimately connected with our nation’s manufacturers and infrastructure builders and employs 17,000 workers in highly paid and sought-after jobs. It provides the construction industry — which is currently at a more than 20 percent unemployment rate, a record high — with quality cement produced in the United States.

The cement industry is also integrally involved in the production of drywall. Increasingly, our nation has started to rely on imports of Chinese drywall, which has resulted in quality control issues that have stymied U.S. regulators and adversely impacted the health and quality of life for thousands.

So what do Rep. Johnson and her radical leftist allies at Earthjustice and the Sierra Club propose? To slash U.S. Portland cement production, export thousands of good-paying American jobs, import dirty cement from China and India, and increase total global mercury pollution and airborne mercury pollution from Asia.

Industry analysts say the rule places 1,800 high-paying jobs at risk in the cement industry and an additional 9,000 jobs in the construction industry, will close 18 plants initially, and increase cement costs by as much as 15 percent.

We can do better. We can stop this bad rule dead in its tracks through the use of the Congressional Review Act. We can follow by having the EPA sit back down at the table and produce a new rule that is guaranteed to reduce U.S. levels of mercury pollution, while protecting valuable American jobs.

This action may not even be necessary if the EPA will voluntarily put the rule on hold and reopen the discussion on these new standards. The cement industry has in fact filed a petition for reconsideration of the regulation, and there is no reason a reasonable revised standard can’t be crafted in the same time frame as contemplated under the current proposed rule.

This CRA challenge does not seek to block new air quality standards for the production of Portland cement. We instead demand a good rule that accomplishes the goal of better air quality here and abroad without an unnecessary loss of jobs.

That’s called Congressional oversight of unelected bureaucrats, a job the left will say anything to stop.

Rep. John Carter is a Republican from Texas.