Industry is positioning itself for gains in nation's capitol.
"We've seen a revolution in Washington," said AFS President Tom Woehlke in his address to more than 220 attendees at the Metalcasting Government Affairs Conference. "Not since 1954 has the House and Senate been controlled by Republicans. We have a significant opportunity to make a change if we have the right chemistry with elected officials and us."
Many of the attendees at the conference held in Washington, March 5-7, agree that last fall's sweeping Republican victories have created an entirely different climate on Capitol Hill. And while knocking on "Hill" doors to lobby for better legislation, they were greeted with a different attitude than in years past, regardless of party affiliations.
"Politicians have listened to business like never before," said Don Huizenga, Kurdziel Industries, and chairman of the AFS government affairs committee. "There's a willingness to listen that we haven't seen in many years. There's a mood change, but it's up to us to bring about the positive involvement."
While many returned from their visits feeling as though they were "preaching to the choir," this could be considered the most critical time for industry to position itself for a more friendly business environment in the future. A common conversation taking place in the legislative offices is how to provide legislators with the information they need to support metalcasters' issues.
This year's gathering included a first-ever congressional-foundry roundtable, 12 briefing sessions, addresses by Jack Kemp and George Will, and 150 visits on the Hill.
Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI) said there are two immediate ways Washington can help make industries like metalcasting more competitive. "First, we need to put a sunset on regulations so they must be reauthorized periodically. Now, they run in perpetuity and are never reanalyzed. Second, the legal system is badly broken. Product liability and general torts are putting a significant drain on business and are causing them to lose their competitive edge."
He added: "We need people like you to engage in the fights that need to be waged - we need allies. We need real world cases that undercut jobs and economic opportunities."
In the first-ever congressional-foundry forum held at the Rayburn Building, foundrymen voiced their concerns and gave legislators a flavor of the difficulties they currently face, as well as the impact of proposed regulations.
Congressional participants included Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), David McIntosh (R-IN) and Mike Oxley (R-OH). All three sit on committees critical to the foundry industry.
Five spokespersons relayed the industry's perspective on different issues. About 30 other metalcasting officials attended the roundtable, and were invited to offer comments.
Speaking first was Steven Cochran, Mansfield Foundry, Mansfield, Ohio, who discussed foundry sand and how government is impeding recycling and beneficial reuse of spent foundry sand.
Stating that spent foundry sand is a resource, not a waste, Cochran explained that the small amount of excess sand generated is usable for construction applications - namely asphalt. Mansfield, which generates 1800 lb a month of spent sand, is located next to an asphalt company, creating a logical opportunity for beneficial reuse.
"The president of the asphalt firm said eight other foundries had contacted him about using their sand, and he wasn't interested," Cochran said. "He talked about all the 'hazardous waste' we were generating, which was inaccurate. He also said he didn't want to have to repermit his asphalt operation because of our new 'pollutants.' Any concerns with our sand would be quite small and negligible, but there was a great fear factor on his part."
After pointing to the fact that incentives should exist for this beneficial re-use, Cochran also noted the seriousness of EPA's definition of sand at shakeout is a hazardous waste.
"To illustrate the point, it's like cutting a board in a wood shop," he said. "At what point do you declare it waste? He may throw it in a bin, go back and say I now need a smaller piece, retrieve it, cut it up and continue to use it. It's not a waste until he declares it's a waste and takes it out. Reusing this sand is an integral part of what we do. I don't understand how someone can declare it's waste while the metal is being separated from the sand."
Oxley agreed, and noted that government should be encouraging recycling.
Dwight Barnhard, Superior Aluminum, Independence, Missouri, discussed the excessive regulations and paperwork and the costs to small business. Reporting from a "small foundry diary," Barnhard explained how difficult it can be for his 16-employee operation to meet all the paperwork requirements.
Pointing to a stack of binders full of OSHA regulations and material safety data sheets (MSDS), he said, "Procedures that are driven by regulation rather than mission become lengthy and complicated. If the objective is a safe and protective workplace that reasonably protects our environment and at the same time produces products and services that improve the quality of life, then it can be accomplished using more effective methods that build, rather than stymie potential."
Following Barnhard's testimony, a long discussion on OSHA and regulations ensued among foundrymen and legislators.
Tom Perretti, Brost Foundry Co., Cleveland, noted that 20% of his firm's expenses went to meeting regulations. "That's an extraordinary expense," he said. "We're not trying to hurt, we're trying to create."
Hoekstra told the group he thinks we'll see OSHA reform (even though OSHA Asst. Secretary Joe Dear would say it has already been changed to a consulting operation), but said industry can help by having information on cost/employee.
Hoekstra noted that OSHA's strongest ammunition against reform is the scene of the spouse of a killed worker, as courtroom attorneys point to the fact that there'll be more widows and fatherless kids.
"Many think you view your employees as throwaways," he said. "They're unskilled people and if they get hurt, you don't care, and you'll find someone else. They need information to get an understanding of the costs that are incurred when you have an unsafe environment. People need to appreciate you don't view them as throwaways because there's an economic benefit to having someone on the job on a daily basis.
"They give you credit for one thing - making a buck. If you make an economic case along with a moral obligation - you've got a two-pronged attack to convince them of the need for changes."
On that topic, Tad Malpass, East Jordan Iron Works, East Jordan, Michigan, said, "Our workers are the people we go to church with and see in our community. We've initiated programs - including wellness programs, blood testing, substance abuse assistance - without any OSHA mandate of joint-supervisor safety committee meetings because we care for people. We're more than happy to put money into the things that we can initiate on our own. But so many of OSHA's programs are there so they can come in to fine you and fund themselves."
In describing how punitive the agencies can be, Cochran said after an employee was discharged two years ago because of clear horseplay, an OSHA inspector was in to confirm whether he'd been fairly discharged. The following Monday, he was in with a complaint to monitor carbon monoxide, free silica and heavy metals. "We were at one-half of the time-weighted average levels, and he said he had to come back for another two days," he said. "It was as though he was on a mission of 'search and destroy.'"
Hoekstra said it's vital to testify on these and other instances of agency abuse, yet companies aren't willing to do it. He did describe how one firm (outside the industry) felt they were being harassed, and decided to go through the whole process.
"They opened their books and testified with us to show how agencies are going against business," he said. "We need this type of information to make sure we have our ducks lined up."
McIntosh (who worked for a foundry in college that later closed because it couldn't meet environmental regulations) agreed that concrete examples are needed of how current law is not working well. He commented on the ludicrousness of making sand a hazardous material - "it's the same thing on the beach."
Commenting on a recent tour of Grede's foundry in New Castle, Indiana, McIntosh said he felt home again. "There's something in a foundry that is very uplifting. There are severe consequences on employees if you shut down and give in to competition overseas."
When one foundryman noted that such documentation drains creativity and energy and is extremely time-consuming, Hoekstra said, "If you don't help us, it isn't going to get done. We don't have a big enough staff for this; we don't know business like you."
Addressing the implications of the Clean Air Act's Title V Operating Permits, John Hiler, Hiler Industries, La-Porte, Indiana, delivered the message that EPA regulations need to be changed.
Talking about the pettiness and absurdity of current regulations, he said "95% of us couldn't tell you what the Clean Air Act and Title V are and what they require. It's detrimental to our ability to survive. Permitting alone can cost $50,000-$70,000."
Foundries are required to guess on their facility's operation five years into the future, he said. "Business today must turn on a dime. If you have a plan you must follow, you will miss roads along the way to turn on. If we need to add a furnace to meet production requirements, we're required to reopen permitting - and it can take two years to hear back. Title V puts industry in a real straight jacket."
On the subject of training and education, Charlie Thompson, Bodine Aluminum, St. Louis, Missouri, discussed how foundries are providing employees with basic skills as well as specialized training.
He said the industry provides a good place to work, with good pay and benefits. With today's quality and service requirements, workers must be able to prepare and execute SPC controls, operate mechanical and electronic devices, and use computers for operations and reporting. He said it is difficult today to find new employees, and by 2000, there will be a severe shortage of trained and qualified entry-level workers.
He described Bodine's work of promoting its people to become engineers, quality technicians, supervisors and plant superintendents. Bodine trains its employees in mandatory subjects, teamwork, production systems, quality circles, safety, productivity improvements and problem solving. His firm has an average cost per worker of $45,000/year.
"A large problem we face is that future employees are poorly prepared to receive this training when they come out of our public education system," he said. "Now it falls on industry to come back and train these people."
He asked that the House Committee on Education and Economic Opportunity help bring accountability to public education by requiring individual districts that receive federal funding to show improvement in student achievement (rather than only services provided). He also said federal funds should be used to provide equitable access to computers across grade and ability levels and to develop a means of assessment and evaluation that are more realistic to the workplace.
Illustrating a foundry pollution prevention success story, General Castings' Frank DeMeo, Delaware, Ohio, described some of the innovative ways his firm has taken responsibility for reducing its reliance on landfills.
These include recycling foundry sand with a commercial recycling company; working with contractors to develop spent foundry sand uses for flowable fill and asphalt; reducing hazardous waste by changing its handling of core paste; and finding ways to reuse small metal chips, sawdust, broken pallets and office paper and aluminum cans.
In total, the firm estimates that these measures alone have eliminated 4300 yards of landfill space.
As a result of its January meeting, the AFS government affairs committee designated the following issues as priorities for foundrymen to discuss with their congressmen and senators on the "Hill." The AFS Washington Office drafted backgrounders and position statements for each issue.
For each state's Hill visit, spokespersons opened conversation on the topics they wanted to discuss. An industry reference packet was left at each legislator's office describing the industry and its position on these issues.
Federal mandates and overregulation of low-level human health and environmental risks burden the economy with paperwork and excessive costs ($150 billion) while generating at best only marginal improvements. Metalcasters' capital outlays for environmental compliance efforts and pollution control continue to rank near the top of all capital expenditure categories for the industry.
An example of a needless regulation stemming from absence of risk assessment is in EPA's definition of solid waste. It has declared that simple reuse of sand in the casting process could get a new layer of regulations because foundries are "recycling solid waste."
Opposition - Risk assessment, cost-benefit analysis and new peer review requirements would create agency hurdles and require a $220 million increase in the EPA's budget. Republicans, however, argue that even if this figure was accurate, it could still be the most sound investment ever made.
Position - The industry supports legislation (H.R. 1022.S 343) to improve the regulatory system by strengthening the use of risk assessment, cost-benefit analysis and comparative risk analysis in regulatory decision making; and prioritizing federal resources by targeting the most serious environmental and health risks. Also, it supports a regulatory moratorium (H.R. 450 S.219) that would halt all federal rulemaking to allow for review of current temporary burdens.
DOE Research Funding
This program benefits thousands of small and mid-sized metalcasters through much-needed research and technology transfer. Projects are selected on a stringent competitive basis and require industry input, as well as matching funds.
Since 1990, Congress has approved $10 million for this program, which has created a $20 million pool to promote industry research activities. Projects produce concrete results to enhance the casting process in a number of critical areas, including clean steel, metal penetration, inclusion removal, lost foam casting, dimensional studies, laser ultrasonics, lead-free copper alloys and alternate core removal.
The fiscal 1996 budget requested $1.72 million for metalcasting research.
Position - The industry requests full annual authorization ($5 million) for the program. In order for the Dept. to request proposals for new research, an amount closer to the authorized $5 million is needed.
Title V Operating Permits
As the EPA implements the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, the industry is troubled by tremendous administrative and cost burdens of Title V operating permit provisions and threats of sanctions for missing deadlines. A single foundry may spend thousands of dollars on a single Title V application when states may already have sound permitting systems in place.
Also, its provisions severely restrict operational flexibility in foundries. Facilities must guess at how they will operate over a five-year period and must reopen their permits for review if they make a mistake. Foundries must also undergo formal, public review of permit renewals every five years.
Opposition - While Congressional Republicans are promoting full-scale review of regulatory burdens, many view that revisiting the CAAA will reopen a Pandora's box of unresolvable issues.
Position - The industry urges Congress to review EPA implementation of the Title V permit provisions. Hearings are needed to gather industry views on the impact of permitting restrictions that could hamstring small business and jeopardize manufacturing growth. A more effective, common sense, permit program must consider the nation's critical industrial base in reconciling air quality goals.
While U.S. workers' fatality and injury rates have declined over the past 20 years, OSHA has grown increasingly inflexible and punitive.
OSHA has been working to develop a new ergonomics rule to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders that would impose rigid and potentially budget-breaking requirements on foundries. It requires employers to formally analyze and classify jobs for numerous ergonomics risks, receive and respond to employee reports of on-the-job ergonomics threats, identify causes of a long list of potential musculoskeletal problems and make changes in process, equipment and job requirement.
Congress is calling for a regulatory reform of OSHA and a more balanced view of current manufacturing needs. Legislation to overhaul OSHA has not yet been introduced, but key Republican committee chairs in the House and Senate want action soon.
Opposition - Industry wants to gut regulations and isn't concerned for their workers' well-being.
Position - The industry urges Congress to promote more effective and efficient workplace safety and health policies. The agency should be reformed from a confrontational, penalty-driven agency into one that assists employers with compliance, and uses incentives and industry-generated input in agency decisions to achieve improvements in workplace safety and health. Any "one-size-fits-all" ergonomics rule is opposed.
Product Liability Reform
The rising number of lawsuits has impeded the manufacturing sector's economic competitiveness. Annual federal lawsuits have nearly tripled over the past 30 years - to more than 250,000 in 1990. In response, manufacturers have been forced to withdraw products from the market, thus discontinuing product research, reducing work forces and raising prices.
Currently, only state product laws exist. U.S. liability costs are 15 times higher than in Japan and 20 times higher than those of Europe. The issue has been debated by Congress for more than a dozen years, yet has died. However, because the issue is a key proponent of the Republican's Contract and was aided by the defeat of key opponents to the reform last November, the Common Sense Legal Reform Act (H.R. 10) was introduced in January and already has 131 cosponsors.
Opposition - The Assn. of Trial Lawyers of America and consumer groups argue that product liability reform would hurt people injured by irresponsible corporations and question why federal lawmakers should restrict state courts.
Position - The industry supports efforts to create a sensible, uniform federal product liability law. H.R. 10 would set new federal and state standards; limit punitive damages awards to three times the plaintiff's award for monetary losses; impose a $250,000 cap on punitive damages involving minor damages; prohibit joint liability for noneconomic damages; apply a "loser-pay rule" in federal suits brought by residents of different states, and require that "expert" testimonies be based on "scientifically valid" reasoning.
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|Title Annotation:||1995 Metalcasting Industry Government Affairs Conference|
|Author:||Lessiter, Michael J.|
|Article Type:||Cover Story|
|Date:||May 1, 1995|
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