The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to further tighten ozone standards could result in the loss of more than 45,000 construction jobs each year, slow the nation’s economy, and impede vital infrastructure investments.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
In comments filed to the EPA on March 17, PCA estimates that the cement industry alone would have compliance costs and plant closures that could lead to the loss of nearly 900 jobs. Cement manufacturing jobs are highly technical and well-paying, with an average wage of $77,481 per year. Most cement plants are located in small rural communities, so the impact would be felt disproportionately in those regions.
“A cement plant is vital to the economy of its community. When one is forced to close, the region loses jobs, it loses significant tax revenue for schools and public services, and it loses a strong supporter of local charities and civic activities,” says James Toscas, president and CEO at PCA.
Most cement and concrete in the U.S is used for infrastructure. Higher costs for construction projects would mean that governments could afford fewer projects each year. As a result, PCA estimates that costs associated with compliance to the proposed standards would lead to the loss of thousands of construction jobs each year.
“Think for a moment which structures we traditionally build with concrete. Bridges, roads, dams, schools, and hospitals would be hit with construction cost increases at a time when the nation’s infrastructure has already deteriorated to unsafe levels,” Toscas says.
RETAIN CURRENT STANDARDS
PCA was joined by several organizations, including Associated Builders and Contractors and National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), in strongly urging the EPA to retain the current ozone standards when finalizing the proposed rulemaking set to revise the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone under the Clean Air Act.
The rule proposes that the level of the current standard be reduced to a level ranging from 65-70 parts per billion (ppb) from the current standard of 75 ppb. This proposal will lead to fewer projects overall and negatively impact job creation in the construction industry by creating permitting delays, potentially adding new restrictions on certain types of construction equipment, and increasing costs on projects.
A February 2015 study by NERA Economic Consulting for NAM projects that a 65 ppb standard would be among the most expensive regulations in history, resulting in $1 trillion in compliance costs from 2017 to 2040 and a $140 billion annual drag on the Gross Domestic Product. Moreover, the NAM study indicates that such a rule would lead to 1.4 million fewer jobs through 2040 while costing the average household an additional $830 in energy expenses.
ALLOW CURRENT LAW TO WORK
According to NAM’s study, more than 60 percent of the controls and technologies needed to meet the rule’s requirements are what the EPA calls “unknown controls.” Because controls are not known, the new regulation could result in the closure of plants and the early scrappage of equipment used for manufacturing, construction, and agriculture.
NAM analysis shows the air is already cleaner under the current standard. Ozone-forming emissions have already been cut in half since 1980, and dozens of regulations already on the books will drive improvements to the ozone over the next decade. If the EPA simply let the current law be implemented, emissions would be cut by another 36 percent from current levels. ■
For More Information: PCA represents America’s cement manufacturers, serving as a powerful and vocal advocate for sustainability, jobs creation, economic growth, sound infrastructure investment, and overall innovation and excellence in construction throughout the U.S. More information on PCA is available at www.cement.org. For more about NAM’s analysis, visit www.nam.org.
Modern Contractor Solutions, May 2015
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