Herrera Beutler seeks delay of federal rule

Local jobs in forest products industry at stake, she says

By Kathie Durbin, Columbian staff writer

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U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler took to the House floor Thursday in support of a bill that would delay a federal rule aimed at curbing pollution from boilers and process heaters used by many forest products companies.

“Those businesses provide tens of thousands of good, family-wage jobs to the folks in my region,” she said in her five-minute speech. Cowlitz County would be particularly hard hit, she said.

Citing numbers provided by the American Forest and Paper Association, the Camas Republican said the rule’s implementation would cost 18 percent of family-wage jobs in pulp, paper and emerging biomass companies, or an estimated 20,500 jobs nationwide.

“Those are blue-collar families, those are family-wage jobs,” she said. “They’re the ones that would pay the price for this if we do not act now to protect the environment where jobs can grow.”

The EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011, of which Herrera Beutler is a co-sponsor, would delay action on the rule for 15 months and give companies five years after that to achieve compliance.

The boiler rule, published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in March, would set stricter standards for an estimated 13,800 large boilers used by tens of thousands of manufacturers, refineries, chemical plants, pulp and paper mills and other sources nationwide. Developed under a section of the federal Clean Air Act that targets toxic air pollution, it would set technology-based standards for harmful pollutants including mercury, organic air toxins and dioxins.

An EPA fact sheet says the health benefits to children and the general public as a result of reduced exposure to fine particles and ozone from large boilers would save from $22 billion to $54 billion in health care costs in 2014.

The agency published the rule, and another one regulating cement plant emissions, under court order in March. After receiving more than 4,800 public comments, it requested 15 months to rewrite the rules to provide for additional public comment and increased transparency. But the federal court ruled that the regulations had to be issued within 30 days. The EPA has put both rules on temporary hold.

“Let’s give the EPA the time it’s requested to rewrite this rule,” Herrera Beutler said. If new restrictions are necessary to protect the environment, she said, “Let’s do it in a common-sense way that doesn’t handicap the economy.”

A final vote on the legislation is scheduled for next Tuesday.