Midwest chemical makers challenge Obama on jobs growth

16 August 2011 18:16  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Chemical manufacturers in Illinois on Tuesday challenged President Barack Obama on jobs, charging that his administration’s environmental policies are significant obstacles to job creation and economic growth.

Mark Biel, executive director of the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois (CICI), said that Obama’s three-day bus tour of three midwestern states in an effort to develop new employment strategies “ignores the role of EPA in preventing economic recovery”.

Biel said that new rules being issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) make it all the more difficult for US manufacturers to operate or expand and create jobs.

“President Obama’s bus tour fails to address one of the most significant obstacles to job creation and economic growth  federal regulations that make it more difficult for American manufacturers to expand, invest and hire in the US,” he said.

Obama visited small town communities in Minnesota on Sunday, spends Tuesday in Iowa and rolls on to Illinois on Wednesday. The White House said the bus tour was meant to help get ideas from local communities and small business operators on how the federal government can stimulate jobs growth.

US unemployment is above 9% and has seen little change.

Biel charged that the president could do more to stimulate jobs growth by reining in the EPA.

“For example, the EPA is expected to impose new, unnecessary ozone standards soon that could put a stop to new manufacturing plants and expansions, construction and the jobs they would support in nearly every county in the country,” he said.

In a move widely criticised by a broad coalition of US businesses, energy firms and manufacturers including chemicals makers, the EPA is soon to issue a new standard for ozone levels across the country.

Business interests have raised an alarm, warning that the anticipated new EPA ozone standards could not be met except by shutting down many existing power and production sites at a cost of some 7m jobs and about $1,000bn (€690bn) in compliance costs over the next decade.

Critics of the impending ozone rule contend that it sets a level below even ambient ozone, also known as background ozone, that exists naturally in areas of the country far removed from industry, such as Yellowstone National Park.

America’s chemical manufacturers are poised to help create up to 400,000 new US jobs, thanks to the promise of domestic shale gas,” Biel said.

“Thousands of those jobs could be in Illinois, but EPA’s plan to aggressively reduce ozone standards would render 19 Illinois counties off-limits to new manufacturing,” he said.

Under the Clean Air Act (CAA) state and municipal governments are required to impose limits on local ozone-producing activities, such as power generation and manufacturing, in order to reduce ozone levels to the range set by EPA. 

But manufacturers contend that the technology to further reduce already low US ozone emissions does not exist, and compliance could only be effected through production cutbacks and plant shutdowns  and a de facto ban on new manufacturing capacity.

“The ability of America’s chemistry industry, and the many industries that rely on us, to innovate, compete and create jobs is directly related to whether the nation strikes the right balance in government regulation,” Biel said.

“At a time when the nation is wrestling with a 9.2% unemployment rate, President Obama should keep the EPA in check and choose to keep America open for business,” he added.

($1 = €0.69)

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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