Weekly Columns

Brick MACT Sets Dangerous Precedent for Future Rulemaking

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Washington, March 9, 2016 | Tiffany Haverly (202-226-8072) | comments

Since 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working to regulate air pollutants from the brick and clay ceramics manufacturing industries through the Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rule. It is estimated this rule could cost hundreds of thousands of jobs around the country, and is especially consequential to General Shale, whose corporate headquarters is located in Johnson City. Commonly referred to as Brick MACT, the first final rule was promulgated by the EPA in 2003 and vacated by a federal court is 2007 – after the industry had already spent millions of dollars to comply with the rule. After the court vacated the rule, the EPA decided to move forward with a new, more stringent rule, despite the effort brick manufacturers had made in complying with the rule that was vacated by the court.

In December 2012, the EPA published a new rule schedule for Brick MACT. After extending the proposed schedule for the rule to give stakeholders more time to weigh in, the EPA settled on releasing the final rule in December 2014. Knowing the impact this rule would have on East Tennesseans, I joined several colleagues in November 2013 in writing to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to raise concerns about the rule. We were particularly concerned the EPA did not take into consideration that each facility had reduced roughly 95 percent of pollutants under the original rule and planned to issue new guidance based on the already-cleaner air quality, making compliance that much more difficult and further burdening the entire industry.

Many brick plants are small, family-owned businesses, and complying with these new rules would likely push them out of business. In fact, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than 60 of the 70 U.S. brick plants are small companies that could never afford $100 million worth of additional regulation. The EPA has estimated compliance costs to be only $25 million across the industry, but industry estimates are much higher. Further, it’s simply unfair for the EPA to move forward with a new rule without giving these businesses credit for the work they’ve already done to modernize their equipment and facilities.

Since the EPA didn’t heed Congress’s initial advice on this rule, my colleague, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), introduced H.R. 4557, the Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns (BRICK) Act. This bill would extend the rule’s compliance dates pending completion of judicial review. I supported the BRICK Act when it passed the House with bipartisan support on March 3. Unfortunately, President Obama has threatened to veto the BRICK Act, despite the fact the bill passed by a vote of 238 to 163.

We all know plenty of examples of bureaucrats in Washington creating red-tape and costly regulations for job creators, but the EPA is in a class by itself. While this particular rule is unfair to the brick industry, it also sets a dangerous precedent for future rulemaking that all industries should be concerned about. If a court shuts down another rule, will the federal government move forward in spite of the court’s ruling? If this is the EPA’s new way of doing business, how can anyone hold them accountable? You can rest assured I will continue fighting in Congress to protect jobs, stop reckless and costly bureaucracy and hold government agencies accountable on behalf of the American people.

Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family. 
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Tags: Energy