Making the industry's issues heard.
Talking to elected officials and their staffs about your business and how their decisions impact it often has a way of making you feel like an insurance salesman. There are lots of nodding heads as issues are presented, full agreement that the government and its agencies need reengineering, but then an apology by the lawmaker or aide "that he/she is sorry, but has another meeting to attend."
But at the AFS Metalcasting Industry Government Affairs Meeting held in late March, foundrymen took full advantage of the "Foundry Town Hall Meeting" added to this year's agenda, which kept two congressman captively focused on the industry's concerns for nearly two hours.
With this new forum, more than 220 metalcasting industry officials had the ear of U.S. Reps. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) and David McIntosh (R-IN). In this arrangement, metalcasters vented their concerns, shared examples of how they are impacted by certain regulations and described examples of agency mistreatment that the two congressmen could communicate with other members of congress. Both congressmen also participated in a special industry-congress roundtable in 1995.
Cohosted by four other associations and 13 state groups, the meeting also featured 12 speakers reporting from the EPA, Senate Environmental Committee, OHSA and the Small Business Administration, as well as authorities on safety/health, the Global Warming Treaty, the impact of the Asian crisis and regulatory reform. The conference concluded with the main objective of the gathering, metalcasting's day on the "Hill," as each respective state group met with their elected officials.
Town Hall Meeting
Each congressman first had the opportunity to address the group. Hoekstra (who chairs the Oversight & Investigation Subcommittee of the House Education and Workforce Committee) talked about his vision for competing globally through new workplace policies.
U.S. labor law, Hoekstra said, is a patchwork of law that began development in 1938, at a time when unemployment was 20%, 22% of the labor force worked in agriculture and only 11% worked in the service sector - far cries from today's world. A 100% overhaul is needed, he said. "How much cost do you incur because law is confusing or contradictory? By meeting ADA, you can break FMLA law. If you meet both, you can violate workers' compensation rules. We need to aggressively go after every labor law and develop a new framework."
McIntosh, who noted that he worked a college summer on shakeout and in cupola melting in an Indiana gray iron foundry, chairs a National Economic Growth, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs subcommittee. He noted that he is working on a bill that would locate all recordkeeping data into one central database (to reduce redundant paperwork), which also has provisions to eliminate OSHA's game of "gotcha." This game, he described, includes situations when OSHA finds no major violations on a visit, yet cites a firm for things like not having MSDS on dishwashing soap. He said the agency must be redirected to instead concentrate on correcting major violations.
He also informed foundrymen that the mandated cost-benefits analyses were only conducted on 56 of the 150 major laws introduced last year. He warned of the administration's possible back-door implementation of the Global Warming Treaty, which could cause the loss of 1-3 million jobs, $2500 per family and devastation to industry. "Even if you bought the science, this treaty doesn't solve the problem because third-world nations are exempt. By the time it's in effect, China [exempt nation] will produce as much as the U.S." He said that the committee is keeping a close eye on this subject.
Metalcasters Speak Out
Following the congressmen's comments, the floor was opened for foundrymen to ask questions and/or make comments. Topics discussed during the session included frustration with permitting delays, mandates that remove a firm's competitive edge, countering emotional and anecdotal evidence in OSHA and EPA debates, testifying in Washington, lowering reporting requirements for smaller foundries, possibility of incentive-based compliance programs, database consolidation, paperwork redundancy and recycling issues. Following are some of the sentiments shared by metalcasters.
Expressly stating that he is the "customer" of EPA and the Dept. of Environmental Quality, Steve Tomaszewski, GM Powertrain, spoke on the industry's disappointment in the accountability, dependability and quality of the service the industry receives from organizations during manufacturing changes that require permit modifications in air, water and waste.
"In a global market, the first-to-market concept allows our industry to maintain a competitive edge," he said. "However the frustration in permit delays and uncertainty in interpretation, including the recent PM 2.5 regulation, cripples our progress to change with cutting-edge technology that will strengthen our global market share." He asked the lawmakers to make agencies accountable for working with industry and to remind them "that their customer comes first, and that's us."
Replying that the agencies don't view industry as their customers, Hoekstra agreed that the processes must be streamlined, but also said foundries could help themselves by educating employees and communities on the factors in operating a business, he said. "Americans are illiterate about business issues and what it takes to compete today."
Charles Rentschler, Hamilton Foundry & Machine Co., described the events that followed his testimony before Congress on the "horrendous and bureaucratic-grounded" Title V application process in 1995 (see "Round 2: Ambushed but Undaunted," August 1995). During the subsequent Q&A, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who had armed himself with research on Rentschler's firm, questioned the foundry's compliance record.
"Within seven days, the Ohio EPA cited me with $62,000 over a recordkeeping violation seven years earlier," Rentschler said, noting that he discovered the discrepancy years earlier and brought it to the agency's attention. Eventually agreeing to pay $11,000 to settle the matter, he said, "It's un-American when a citizen goes to Washington and testifies in good faith about what's going on and then gets punished like this."
Hoekstra confirmed such repercussions have occurred. "I believe you are assuming a risk when you testify," he said. "But if you are not willing to take this risk with us, you'll never see change. It is our job to protect you so that those who want to make your life miserable in this way will have to jump through a lot of hoops to do so."
EBAA Iron's Earl Bradley, who testified before the Senate on OSHA Reform several years ago, wanted the audience to know "you can fight city hall." He also challenged the group to join together when such an incident takes place, saying that no foundryman should have to walk the path alone. "I think we need to get some resolve about ourselves and stand up and get things changed," he said.
McIntosh added: "Your support is key to build a public record on this, to tell Americans what the problem is and bring pressure on the system here in Washington. Frankly, we don't have a chance of reaching a rational policy on these regulatory issues without this."
Despite all the talk of "stopping the insanity" in Washington, commented Foseco's Tom Penko, the provisions of Title V, VOCs, HAP limits and PM 2.5 will likely continue, and foundries will have no choice but to comply. "Obviously, foundries must invest substantial money in nonproductive capital - expenses you don't see in India, China, Brazil and Mexico," he said. He asked what types of financial incentives McIntosh would support for foundries in compliance, such as tax incentives or accelerated depreciation.
Responding that he favored both options, McIntosh also described his "greener-plus" alternative compliance - basically a results-test which gives a company the freedom to implement a better way of reducing emissions and pollutants through technology or process.
"Companies could then meet environmental as well as economic objectives. The obstacle is that agencies realize this would be taking away their control," Mcintosh said. "The only reason for Title V is their power to micromanage your business. It doesn't gain one scintilla of environmental improvement, but does give EPA and its allies tremendous power because they can hold up your permit."
Tom Rarick, Keramida International, discussed the cumulative effects of all the regulations, which has created a tremendous paperwork and compliance burden for foundries with few environmental benefits.
While Mcintosh said agencies should be required to consider the effect of this rule in conjunction with other existing rules or those being imposed, he said consolidating regulations would be a mistake. He mentioned that EPA combined regulations for the paper industry so there was one set of rules, and the effect was that the agency took the opportunity to expand the requirements.
Mike Lenahan, Kurtz Bros., described how his environmental consulting firm, which also operates some landfills, was told by EPA to "bury everything [byproducts like metal and wood debris that have other beneficial reuse opportunities] rather than recycling such materials, because 'it would be creating a new waste' in processing."
McIntosh shared other "absurd" examples in regulation of recycling processes. "By defining byproducts as waste, government is creating huge disincentives to environment and business. It's backward policy from both an environmental and economic standpoint and must be rethought."
Asked if there was anything that foundries could feel optimistic about as they fight the "suffocation by regulators," McIntosh replied that some areas of performance from agencies have improved (like the Federal Drug Administration, which has sped up its new drug approvals). Hopefully, he said, the EPA could learn a few things as well.
STORMING THE HILL
The heart of the annual conference is the state delegates' actual meetings with lawmakers and their staffs in their offices on the "Hill." More than 150 face-to-face appointments were held this year, in which metalcasters described their concerns and left resource information on the industry and its top legislative concerns. Following are the industry's four priority issues, as determined by the AFS Government Affairs Committee. Issue information was provided by the AFS Washington Office.
Global Climate Treaty
In the Kyoto Protocol signed in December, 38 nations agreed to reduce greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and HFCs) to below 1990 levels by 2012 (U.S. committed to 7% reductions). Major issues such as the requirements of developing countries and emission credits training remain unresolved.
Metalcasters' Position - Metalcasters urge the Senate to oppose the agreement for the reduction of greenhouse gases as adopted in Kyoto, Japan, as it will put foundries and other U.S. businesses at a substantial disadvantage with offshore competitors, hurting jobs, product availability and costs. Key issues discussed with lawmakers were: developing nations (such as China, India and Brazil) must be subjected to the emission control limits; details of the emission trading system must be included; and limiting greenhouse gases will result in significant changes in energy use and energy sources, potentially causing energy prices to increase.
OSHA regulations often impose huge compliance costs while yielding few benefits regarding worker safety. For instance, OSHA's hazard communication rule costs companies millions of dollars in lost work hours due to excessive paperwork. OSHA's resources should be directed toward encouraging and assisting employers in meeting their obligations and fostering cooperative efforts to achieve a safe and healthy workplace.
Metalcasters' Position - The industry encourages lawmakers to sponsor and support OSHA reform measures such as the SAFE Act (S. 1237/HR 2579) and HR 2864 that incorporate the following concepts:
* Third party consultation - employers who pass a third party safety audit administered by an OSHA-certified professional would be exempt from OSHA civil penalties for two, years. OSHA could inspect but not issue fines except in the case of a criminal violation;
* Codifying OSHA's Reinvention Efforts - repeal the use of inspection quotas and prohibit fines for violations of posting or paperwork violations;
* Peer Review - require independent peer review to ensure future rules are based on sound science;
* Audits - prevent self-audit and third party audit records from being admissible in a court of law or administrative proceeding;
* Drug/Alcohol Program - permit employers to establish and carry out on- or off-site substance abuse programs;
* 15% for Outreach - require OSHA to spend 15% of their budget on education, consultation and outreach efforts.
Metalcasters communicated that: voluntary compliance is the key to improving worker health/safety; the bills are modest proposals that fine-tune the OSHA Act of 1970 to reflect lessons accumulated during the past 27 years; utilizing qualified safety professionals to identify and abate hazards (as put forth in the SAFE Act) would tremendously benefit small foundries; both bills expand technical and consultation initiatives; and the SAFE Act mandates independent scientific peer review for new rules.
Particulate Matter & Ozone
The EPA revision that drastically lowered air quality standards for particulate matter and ozone published last July will create new nonattainment areas around the country, imposing significant regulatory burdens on state and local governments. Stationary, mobile and other sources all face new requirements to reduce emissions.
Metalcasters' Position-Metalcasters urge members of Congress to cosponsor legislation (S. 1084 and HR 1984) to delay new PM and ozone standards for four years and to provide funding for additional research and air quality monitoring. Metalcasters stated that: such bills are reasonable, moderate and necessary; additional research and air monitoring must be conducted to determine if the new standards are appropriate; EPA's own Clean Air Science Advisory Committee was unsure about the standards; and industries, local governments and the public could all face significant regulatory burdens and/or costs.
The Office of Management and Budget estimates that the direct costs of regulation are $279 billion/year, or 4% of GDP. Capital outlays for regulatory compliance continue to rank near the top of all capital expenditures for the industry. Recent studies argue that smarter regulatory policies could achieve the same goals at less cost.
Metalcasters' Position - Metalcasters urge members of the Senate to cosponsor and work to enact the Regulatory Improvement Act of 1998. S. 981 offers a reasonable, rational foundation to improve regulatory rulemaking in our federal agencies. Metalcasters stated that the act promotes our right to know how and why agencies make major rules; increases government accounting through requirements of the agencies; and improves the quality of government decisionmaking through better use of tools.
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|Title Annotation:||1998 American Foundrymen's Society Government Affairs conference|
|Date:||May 1, 1998|
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