By Express-Times Staff

The U.S. House of Representatives today called for further review of new air quality standards for the cement industry, the Lehigh Valley's congressman announced.

The House passed an amendment offered by U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Lehigh Valley, to HR 2401, the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011.

The amendment would require further U.S. Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the air quality rules "for their potential impact on American jobs and competitiveness," according to a news release from Dent's office.

Environmentalists blasted the TRAIN Act as "an outright attack on clean air," in the words of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

The rules Dent's amendment targets in the TRAIN Act are from the Portland Cement Manufacturing Industry and Standards of Performance for Portland Cement Plants. They are known as National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, or NESHAP, the release states.

The TRAIN Act goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration before it would be sent to President Barack Obama for approval, Dent's office reports.

“While I support efforts to limit the emissions of hazardous pollutants by cement manufacturing facilities, EPA’s failure to craft effective and efficient regulations will jeopardize jobs in the Lehigh Valley and across the country,” Dent said today in a statement.

“Including NESHAP in HR 2401," he said, "will allow the expected loss of American jobs and the weakening of domestic cement manufacturers' global competitiveness to become key considerations during the completion of the EPA rulemaking process.”

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., also lobbied to pass the legislation.

The domestic cement industry employs 13,000 Americans, including many in the Lehigh Valley. If implemented in its current form, NESHAP would result in the closing of 18 of the nation’s 97 cement plants, costing 1,800 jobs and dramatically reducing domestic production capacity, according to Dent's statement.

According to the New Jersey Sierra Club, all of New Jersey's Republican members of congress supported the act -- including U.S. Reps. Scott Garrett, R-Warren/Sussex, and Leonard Lance, R-Hunterdon.
The club's chapter director, Jeff Tittel, called the measure "unconscionable" and said it will harm New Jersey businesses.
“Congress has decided to take the side of air polluters over the lungs of the people of the United States," Tittel said in a statement. "New Jersey Republicans supported one of the most shameful environmental attacks on clean air we have ever seen. New Jersey gets a third of its pollution from out of state and our Republican Representatives would rather support out of the state polluters over the health of the people of New Jersey. ... Out-of-state air pollution causes New Jersey (to spend) more money, adding additional cost and burden to New Jersey businesses."