The House was debating H.R. 2681, a bill sponsored by Sullivan that would impose a 15-month delay in the EPA’s cement rules, require them to be achievable for cement plants and give those plants five years to comply. Republicans argued that the EPA rules, known collectively as “cement MACT,” threaten to shut down several U.S. cement plants.
In contrast, Republicans said approving the bill would help create a better environment for U.S. job creation. Democrats rejected this by saying Republicans are simply labeling the measure as a jobs bill.
“This measure is not about jobs,” Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) said in response to comments from Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Energy and Power. “For the chairman of the subcommittee and my friend to try to persuade members of this body that this is about jobs, that’s … the worst kind of politics. Jobs now is a useful canard, but this is not about jobs.”
Democrats generally focused on what they said would be increased health effects due to increased mercury pollution from cement plants. Whitfield said the mercury argument is a red herring, as the EPA agrees that 98 percent of mercury comes from natural sources, and sources outside the United States.
Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) rejected that claim, saying that up to 40 percent of mercury found in the United States comes from manmade sources. Waxman also repeated his claim that passing the bill would lead to increased cases of asthma and other diseases due to exposure from mercury.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) added: “If this bill is enacted, an intolerable number of American babies will be born with birth defects.”
Members of the House debated the bill early Wednesday afternoon, and were expected to consider nearly two dozen Democratic amendments to the bill throughout the day.