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The Final Word by Rory Ryan

The EPA is at it again.

This federal bureaucracy known as the Environmental Protection Agency is now firmly cemented against bricks and mortar, of all things.

How many times, pray tell, have we heard politicians on both sides of the aisle embrace those economy-saving "bricks-and-mortar" projects? After all, these are the projects that bring jobs to a community or a region. Right?

Not so fast.

A proposed Brick MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) rule is scheduled for February 2014, with a final rule by December 2014.

"This rule, if crafted imprudently, could jeopardize the economic viability of many brick manufacturers and distributors in the United States," according to a Nov. 13 letter to the EPA from 18 Republican U.S. senators. A bipartisan coalition of 53 U.S. House members sent a similar letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy on Nov. 6.

In the Nov. 13 letter, sent by Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and signed by Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio (and 16 other GOP senators), Sen. Sessions, who is the ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, writes:

"The brick industry is in a unique situation. In 2003, EPA issued a Brick MACT (68 Fed. Reg. 26,689) that the brick industry implemented at a total compliance cost of approximately $100 million.

"Controls installed to comply with the 2003 MACT rule largely remain in operation. This 2003 MACT, however, was subsequently vacated by a federal court in 2007 due to no fault of the brick industry.

"As you can appreciate, it is highly problematic when an industry is subject to two consecutive rounds of technology based MACT rules, particularly after compliance was attained with the first technology-based MACT.

"Moreover, we are concerned that the lower emission levels attained from controls installed to comply with the 2003 vacated rule may be used as the baseline for the second MACT and may result in an even more stringent rule than would have been imposed absent the first MACT. This 'MACT on MACT' situation could require the costly removal and replacement of still-viable air pollution control devices without producing actual environmental or human health benefits."

In other words, the updated rules may not result in any additional environmental benefits. They will, naturally, add to the cost of doing business.

The EPA’s estimated annual compliance costs are more than $150 million.

In addition, the mandates will impact a substantial number of small businesses.

The senators offer a three-step alternative proposal and insist that the "EPA must develop a thorough Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis that assesses the impacts on small businesses and examines less burdensome alternatives."

"A reasonable standard will ensure that human health and the environment are protected and that this essential industry can continue to thrive, generate jobs in our states, and help our struggling economy rebound," Sen. Sessions concluded.

Unfortunately, the well-meaning and pragmatic senators are dealing with a federal bureaucracy that is well known for being a few bricks short of a load.

Rory Ryan is Senior Editor, North American Desk, at Paperitalo Publications and the owner of The Highland County Press in Hillsboro, Ohio. He can be reached by email at rory.ryan@taii.com or roryeryan@gmail.com.

• Editor's note: To read the senators' letter, go to: www.sessions.senate.gov, and to read more on the MACT standards, go to http://www.epa.gov.


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