Oregon Congressman Greg Walden on why the EPA is out of control and killing jobs
HH: With Congressman Greg Walden, a member of the House Republican leadership. Congressman, always a pleasure, welcome back.
GW: Hugh, it’s great to be back on the air with you.
HH: I’ve got to grind on you with the EPA in a moment here, and just join in your condemnation of their absurdity. But before I do that, I just want to know, I just finished talking to Senator Rand Paul about the al-Awlaki strike, etc. What do you think about the President’s decision to use missiles to kill American citizens? I’m all for it, enemy combatant, can’t get to him with any other way, kill him. What do you think?
GW: You know, I mean, in effect here, he declared war on America, and he was over in a terrorist war zone, in effect. I mean, I think it was the right call, and I support the President.
HH: Is there any sense of widespread alarm over the President’s use of force in such a situation, in the House?
GW: I don’t sense it, because it is so specific, it’s so identified. This is an individual, whole born here, became an enemy of the State, and was clearly behind all kinds of actions to harm our men and women in uniform, and do far worse damage.
HH: All right, Congressman, let’s switch to EPA. I was at a conference, a Chief Legal Officer’s conference, giving a keynote speech a couple of weeks ago, and I sat down for lunch with the general counsel, I love talking to general counsels, of a cement company back in Virginia. And he told me, he spent an hour explaining to me what the EPA is doing to the cement business. And it’s devastating America. It’s killing thousands of jobs. One in every five jobs, he said, and this has evidently come to your backyard.
GW: Absolutely, Hugh. In Durkee, Oregon, Ashgrove Cement’s had a plant there for, I don’t know, decades. The limestone they use is mined right behind the plant. These rules, this is 107 direct jobs in a county of about 16,000 people, probably 650 direct and indirect jobs. I mean, this is the heartbeat, the biggest taxpayer in the county. And they put $20 million dollars into the latest technology, carbon injection, to remove their emissions, and they’ve reduced them by fully 90%, upwards of 94-95%. These new rules would say no, that’s not good enough, we want 98+% reduction. Now the Clean Air Act has, gives the agency the ability to create subcategories for situations like this, says you shouldn’t have to do ore shifting, and go to a different source. I mean, and they are, this EPA, the Obama administration EPA, is just out to kill jobs. And it’s ironic you had a president out claiming he’s all for jobs when in fact his agencies are, they’re working on 4,257 different rules right now, and this one, the cement mact rule, would effect about a hundred cement plants with a capital cost of over $2.2 billion, according to EPA. Well, that’s 70-80% of what their annual revenues are. I mean, this is an extraordinarily extreme overreach that…I met with a cement manufacturer yesterday in a leadership meeting with the Speaker. He told me that the Europeans looked at these issues, and the American regulations are three to five times what the Europeans came up with. We’re just shifting these jobs to China and foreign nations. And by the way, those countries don’t have anywhere close to the regulations we already have on the books. And, when it comes to China, a lot of the mercury and all that we get on the West Coast especially, guess what, comes in atmospherically and drops in. So we’re going to have China now make our cement, and we get the pollution, and we lose the jobs?
HH: Agreed. Congressman Walden, yesterday the President held one of these show-me, show and tell cabinet meetings, in which he said he was directing every member of his cabinet, and all of the people that work for him, to go out and do administratively what they could do to create jobs. And he said he would get it done. Obviously, he can stop these rules, or he could order them to create the subcategory. Is he being honest with the American people if he refuses to stop this cement rule, and yet goes out and talks about job creation?
GW: You know, I signed a letter with the other leaders, of the Republicans in the House to the President, inviting him to join us in a bipartisan way to save jobs in America by supporting this legislation. We believe in clean air, but we also believe in American jobs. All this says is give them 15 months to re-propose and finalize the rules so that they’re both economically and technically achievable. I thought those were the sorts of words the President’s been using about his great rewrite of regulations, make them economically and technically achievable. And we would give these plants five years to comply with the new rules, and install the new equipment. But let’s make sure there’s even the control devices available. In the case of the Durkee plant with Ashgrove, there isn’t technology available to achieve what the EPA is mandating, and that was never the intent of the Clean Air Act.
HH: Now I support the legislation, and I hope he does as well. But he could move tomorrow, can’t he, to direct the EPA to stop this, because administrative relief is available in any such situation like this.
GW: Absolutely, Hugh. And not only that, where we have put pressure on him on some of the other rules that are just outrageous, he has done so. He put off the ozone rule. He’s put off some of the others, and it’s because in the House, Fred Upton and the Energy and Commerce Committee, of which I’m a member, Fred’s chairman of it, and the Speaker and others have said wait a minute, we’ve drawn real focus, and the public’s figured out that these rules are job killers. Cement only, 20,000 jobs in America would be lost because of plant closures, and increased construction costs. I mean, 20,000 American jobs on the line. The President could fix this tomorrow. He could tell his agency back off, go redo these, take another five years, whatever.
HH: You know the Gibson guitar story, and you know the Boeing story in Charleston, and they’ve generated enormous attention. Is cement sexy enough to get the mainstream media to pay attention to 20,000 good jobs at good wages across this country?
GW: You know, whether it attracts mainstream media or not, I think it’s beginning to. I mean, it’s sort of like the issue we raised with Solyndra, and picking winners and losers, and putting taxpayers on the hook first and all. I mean, that is now like a Page One story everywhere, because we drew attention to it. I think at the end of the day, whether it’s the cement mact rule, or the boiler mact rule, which also affects my district, I was at Boise Cascade’s plywood plant in my district, they’ve got three boilers, they think it’ll cost them a million and a half per boiler. It makes no sense. The plant manager said it probably means the end of the plywood industry in the U.S., the way they’re coming at it, and the way they’re measuring the emissions. I mean, it’s just over and over. There, you’ve got $14 billion dollars in compliance costs, and 230,000 American jobs at risk. Why is this administration driving these types of regulations into the face of an already rocky economy, creating extraordinary uncertainty out there in the marketplace, and frankly, causing investors to go to the sidelines and say why would I invest here? I’ve got options. I’ll go somewhere else, and we’ll send it back overseas to the United States. I’m not going to comply with this. No country is doing it to this level, and we’re killing our jobs here because these agencies are running amok.
HH: Congressman Greg Walden, any time. Come back and keep us posted. Good luck in the battle to bring EPA to heel. It has to happen if America is going to get back to economic growth.
End of interview.