House Majority Leader Eric Cantor argued that the economy needs less regulations, such as the ones being placed on the cement industry.
“The industry has basically received a decade of relief from the legal requirement of the Clean Air Act,” said John Walke, clean air director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Now that the time has come to follow the law, they have launched this sophisticated but brazen lobbying campaign.”
Rather than cut jobs, an agency analysis found that the compliance regulations could create as many as 1,000 jobs.
“It’s misleading to say that implementation of the Clean Air Act costs jobs,” EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power last week.
But the industry’s message appears to be prevailing.
On Tuesday, that subcommittee approved a bill that would delay the implementation of cement emission regulations for as many as five years and give the EPA 15 months to come up with new rules.
The bipartisan bill is the result of years of lobbying. The PCA alone has spent more than $1 million on lobbying each year for the past decade.
In the first six months of this year, the relatively small industry with just $6.5 billion in annual revenue spent $1.2 million on lobbying, according to disclosure records.
Cement companies have also been donating to political campaigns. During the midterm elections, the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association’s political action committee gave about $35,000 to Democrats and $140,000 to Republicans, including Cantor.
Ash Grove Cement Co.’s president donated $15,000 to the Republican National Committee in June. The company also has hired Phillip Scaglia as a lobbyist. The former Hill staffer served for eight years as chief of staff to the late Rep. Karen McCarthy, a Missouri Democrat who was active on energy issues.
Several PACs tied to the cement industry have also given money to the campaigns of Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.), who introduced the House bill to delay the EPA rules, and Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), whose yearlong effort — called the “Carter Campaign for American Cement Jobs” — helped create the bill.
“[Carter’s] got a bee in his bonnet about regulation. We just seem to be a good poster child for him,” O’Hare said.
Carter told Roll Call that the cement bill is just the beginning of the House’s renewed focus on regulations for the coming months.
“We need our industries to know that there’s some stability in their future,” Carter said.
If the bill clears the House, it still faces hurdles in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Frank Maisano, an energy media specialist at Bracewell & Giuliani, which represents cement companies, said Senators might try to delay the EPA rules by tacking legislation on to an upcoming spending measure.
The industry does have bipartisan support, and half of the cement it produces is used in government projects such as bridges and roads — the sort of infrastructure Obama calls for in his jobs plan.
“There are lots of Democrats who care about cement,” Maisano said. “It is the foundation industry for much of the infrastructure in this country.”