Environment

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Policy and Legal

NAM to House: Overturn Air Standard

a man wearing a suit and tie

The Environmental Protection Agency’s recently finalized standard for particulate matter (PM2.5) will hamstring U.S. economic growth, job creation and competitiveness—and it must be reversed, the NAM told the House Thursday.

What’s going on: “The EPA’s unworkable PM2.5 standard … of 9 [micrograms per cubic meter of air] is in line with background levels of particulate matter in many parts of the country,” NAM Managing Vice President of Policy Chris Netram told committee members during “Safeguarding American Prosperity and People’s Livelihoods: Legislation to Modernize Air Quality Standards,” a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing and Critical Materials.

  • “In other words, the standard is now so low that companies will be expected to reduce their emissions below what naturally occurs.”
  • The result of an overly stringent National Ambient Air Quality Standards level: Large swaths of the U.S. will be forced into “nonattainment” status, making permitting for critical infrastructure nearly impossible and all but guaranteeing job cuts, not growth, Netram said in his testimony, which Bloomberg (subscription) covered.

Why it’s important: A particulate matter standard of 8 micrograms per cubic meter of air—only slightly below the newly finalized level—would result in a loss of up to $200 billion in economic activity and almost 1 million jobs, according to a recent NAM study.

  • As far as global competitiveness is concerned, the new limit effectively cuts America off at the knees, Netram continued. “Europe’s current PM standard is 25; China’s is 35. If we want the next manufacturing dollar to be spent in America rather than abroad, a standard of 9 is simply not feasible.”

What should be done: Lawmakers should introduce a Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn the new standard as soon as possible, Netram urged. The NAM also highlighted key NAAQS reform policies Congress is considering:

  • Extend the EPA review period to 10 years.
  • Allow the EPA to count wildfire mitigation as exceptional “rather than holding manufacturers accountable for PM they can’t control.”
  • Require the EPA to consider the economic effects of a tightened standard.
Policy and Legal

EPA Releases Punishing New Air Standard

a sign on the side of a building

In a move that could have a significant negative impact on manufacturing in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday finalized an update to the federal air quality particulate matter standard.

What’s going on: The EPA announced a significantly stricter National Ambient Air Quality Standard for fine particulate matter (PM2.5), lowering the level from 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 9 micrograms.

The background: America’s air is actually cleaner than ever, due in large part to manufacturers’ commitment to innovation.

  • In fact, the EPA recently reported that PM2.5 concentrations have declined by 42% since 2000.
  • Yet, last year, the agency signaled that it was considering lowering the standards even further, to as low as 8 micrograms per cubic meter—and while the NAM and manufacturers spoke out against the move, the EPA moved ahead.

The problem: If enacted, such an aggressive standard would make it far more difficult and costly for manufacturers to operate in the United States.

  • It would put huge swaths of the country in “nonattainment,” meaning that they would not meet ambient air quality standards. Factories in nonattainment areas would be unable to operate. Permitting would become almost impossible, and economic development would grind to a halt.
  • A recent NAM-commissioned analysis by Oxford Economics found that a standard at this level could reduce GDP by nearly $200 billion and cost as many as 1 million jobs through 2031.

Our take: “The Biden administration’s new PM2.5 standard takes direct aim at manufacturing investment and job creation in direct contradiction to the president’s stated goal of strengthening manufacturing in communities all across America,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons.

  • And it will “mak[e] an already gridlocked permitting system further gridlocked” and discourage long-term investments by manufacturers. 

Unfair disadvantage, tough choices: It would put the U.S. at a disadvantage with global competitors, too, Timmons added.

  • “Manufacturers in America will also be hard pressed to make long-term investment plans domestically as our global competitors have set more reasonable goals. The EU standard is currently 25, and a proposal there would be to reach 10 by 2030. The UK has a target of 10 by 2040.”
  • And it would require state and local officials to make difficult decisions about which critical infrastructure projects in their areas move forward, Timmons continued.

High cost, little impact: What’s more, the tightened rule won’t address the greatest sources of particulate matter, according to NAM partners the American Forest & Paper Association and American Wood Council.

  • The “EPA’s rule delivers a devastating blow to U.S. manufacturing and the economy while doing nothing to address the largest sources of particulate matter, including wildfire smoke,” they said in a joint statement. “This unworkable air rule undermines President Biden’s promise to grow and reshore manufacturing jobs.”
  • “This administration has set the PM2.5 NAAQS at near background levels, ensuring permit gridlock for most manufacturing sectors around the country, while failing to address 84% of overall PM2.5 emissions.”

Next steps: The NAM has spoken out repeatedly against this stricter regulation and will continue to call on Congress to reverse it.

NAM in the news: AFP, Associated Press, Fox News, Daily Caller and Newsweek all covered the NAM’s response to the finalized rule.

The last word: “The U.S. already has some of the strictest air standards in the world, and thanks to manufacturers’ innovation and leadership, some of the cleanest air and best environmental records,” Timmons concluded. “Manufacturers will consider all options to reverse this harmful and unnecessary standard, because it is our duty to stand against policies that hold our country back.” 

Policy and Legal

EPA Releases Punishing New Air Standard

a sign on the side of a building

In a move that could have a significant negative impact on manufacturing in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday finalized an update to the federal air quality particulate matter standard.

What’s going on: The EPA announced a significantly stricter standard for fine soot, lowering the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 9 micrograms.

The background: America’s air is actually cleaner than ever, due in large part to manufacturers’ commitment to innovation.

  • In fact, the EPA recently reported that PM2.5 concentrations have declined by 42% since 2000.
  • Yet, last year, the agency signaled that it was considering lowering the standards even further anyway—and while the NAM and manufacturers spoke out against the move, the EPA moved ahead.

The problem: If enacted, such an aggressive standard would make it far more difficult and costly for manufacturers to operate in the United States.

  • It would put huge swaths of the country in “nonattainment,” meaning that they would not meet ambient air quality standards. Factories in nonattainment areas would be unable to operate. Permitting would become almost impossible, and economic development would grind to a halt.
  • A recent NAM-commissioned analysis by Oxford Economics found that a standard at this level could reduce GDP by nearly $200 billion and cost as many as 1 million jobs through 2031.

Our take: “The Biden administration’s new PM2.5 standard takes direct aim at manufacturing investment and job creation in direct contradiction to the president’s stated goal of strengthening manufacturing in communities all across America,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons.

  • And it will “mak[e] an already gridlocked permitting system further gridlocked” and discourage long-term investments by manufacturers.

​​​​​​​Unfair disadvantage, tough choices: It would put the U.S. at a disadvantage with global competitors, too, Timmons added.

  • “Manufacturers in America will also be hard pressed to make long-term investment plans domestically as our global competitors have set more reasonable goals. The EU standard is currently 25, and a proposal there would be to reach 10 by 2030. The UK has a target of 10 by 2040.”
  • And it would require state and local officials to make difficult decisions about which critical infrastructure projects in their areas move forward, Timmons continued.

High cost, little impact: What’s more, the tightened rule won’t address the greatest sources of particulate matter, according to NAM partners the American Forest & Paper Association and American Wood Council.

  • The “EPA’s rule delivers a devastating blow to U.S. manufacturing and the economy while doing nothing to address the largest sources of particulate matter, including wildfire smoke,” they said in a joint statement. “This unworkable air rule undermines President Biden’s promise to grow and reshore manufacturing jobs.”
  • “This administration has set the PM2.5 NAAQS at near background levels, ensuring permit gridlock for most manufacturing sectors around the country, while failing to address 84% of overall PM2.5 emissions.”

Next steps: The NAM has spoken out repeatedly against this stricter regulation and will continue to call on Congress to reverse it.

NAM in the news: AFP, Associated Press, Daily Caller, Fox News and Newsweek all covered the NAM’s response to the finalized rule.

The last word: “The U.S. already has some of the strictest air standards in the world, and thanks to manufacturers’ innovation and leadership, some of the cleanest air and best environmental records,” Timmons concluded. “Manufacturers will consider all options to reverse this harmful and unnecessary standard, because it is our duty to stand against policies that hold our country back.”

Press Releases

Manufacturers: New EPA Rule Directly Undermines President’s Manufacturing Agenda

Washington, D.C. Following the decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to lower the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) to 9 micrograms per cubic meter, National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement:

“The Biden administration’s new PM2.5 standard takes direct aim at manufacturing investment and job creation, in direct contradiction to the president’s stated goal of strengthening manufacturing in communities all across America.

“The new standard of 9 and the EPA’s paltry 60-day implementation window will guarantee projects currently under permitting review will have to comply with this onerous decision, making an already gridlocked permitting system further gridlocked.

“Manufacturers in America will also be hard pressed to make long-term investment plans domestically as our global competitors have set more reasonable goals. The EU standard is currently 25, and a proposal there would be to reach 10 by 2030. The UK has a target of 10 by 2040.

“Governors and mayors will now have to make difficult decisions under this untenable standard. New manufacturing investments envisioned by the CHIPS and Science Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the energy provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act will be subject to these new requirements. This revised standard will force some communities to choose which—if any—investments can proceed without running afoul of the EPA’s decree.

“By implementing such a radical standard here, our country is ceding our competitive advantage with an unforced error. All of these choices could have been avoided with a more sensible standard and a longer implementation runway.

“The EPA itself says that some 70% of particulate matter comes from nonmanufacturing sources, such as wildfires (29%), agriculture and prescribed fires (15%), crop and livestock dust (12%), unpaved road dust (10%), paved road dust (3%) and “dust” (2%). Before forcing actions that will curtail manufacturing investment and infrastructure development, the federal government should first determine how to deal with what is occurring naturally.

“To be sure, manufacturers proudly stood up for funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act investments and many of the policy provisions outlined in the IRA. But there is no doubt that our country will be unable to realize the benefits of these legislative accomplishments with this new rule in place. As counties and cities find themselves in nonattainment, this grave mistake will drive investment away from the United States, derail permitting and weaken the economy for all.

“The U.S. already has some of the strictest air standards in the world, and thanks to manufacturers’ innovation and leadership, some of the cleanest air and best environmental records. Manufacturers will consider all options to reverse this harmful and unnecessary standard, because it is our duty to stand against policies that hold our country back.”

Background:

Per the EPA: Nonattainment is any area that does not meet (or that contributes to ambient air quality in a nearby area that does not meet) the national primary or secondary ambient air quality standard for NAAQS.

The EPA recently reported that PM2.5 concentrations have declined by 42% since 2000, driven by major emissions reductions from both mobile sources and the power sector. As a result, America’s air is cleaner than ever.

-NAM-

The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs nearly 13 million men and women, contributes $2.85 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 53% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.

Policy and Legal

NAM to Congress: SEC Must Fix Flawed Climate-Reporting Rule

a man wearing a suit and tie

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s pending climate disclosure rule would place an enormous, untenable burden on manufacturers—and impose a disproportionate hardship on small businesses, NAM Vice President of Domestic Policy Charles Crain told lawmakers Thursday.

What’s going on: Crain gave testimony before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on the damaging effects of the SEC’s proposed climate rule, which would require businesses to reveal large amounts of convoluted (and often sensitive) climate-related data.

  • The plan would force disclosure of so-called “Scope 3” emissions—those that come from companies’ supply chains—and institute new climate-related accounting requirements, among other mandates.

Why it’s a problem: If finalized, the rule would divert funds from manufacturing growth, including at small manufacturers.

  • “Manufacturing pioneers groundbreaking technologies, including the innovations necessary to combat climate change,” Crain said. “The rule would impose tremendous costs on manufacturers of all sizes—while overwhelming investors with immaterial information. And the SEC hasn’t done the work to show that the rule’s benefits outweigh its costs, or that the rule is even within the SEC’s legal authority.”
  • The proposed regulation would, by the agency’s own accounting, “raise the cost to businesses of complying with its overall disclosure rules to $10.2 billion from $3.9 billion, an additional cost of about $530,000 a year for a bigger business,” according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

Costs to manufacturers: Crain told lawmakers that the SEC’s analysis likely understates the true costs of the rule, in part because the agency did not consider the impacts on private businesses.

  • “For the larger companies subject to [the Scope 3] requirement, the SEC has admitted that it cannot ‘fully and accurately quantify’ the costs,” Crain said. “But for the small businesses that are swept into large companies’ Scope 3 efforts, the SEC hasn’t even tried. The SEC’s proposal does not include any discussion of the Scope 3 costs that will fall on small and private businesses.”
  • Crain warned lawmakers that these compliance costs would represent a “huge resource diversion” for small manufacturers.

Regulatory onslaught: Crain shared the NAM’s landmark Cost of Federal Regulations study with lawmakers, explaining that the SEC’s proposal would add to the $50,000-per-employee-per-year regulatory burden small manufacturers face.

  • “The SEC’s climate rule is at the center of this regulatory onslaught,” Crain said.

NAM in the news: Bloomberg (subscription), Law360 and Pensions & Investments all covered the NAM’s testimony. 

Policy and Legal

NAM Pushes Back on Restrictive Chemical Rule


The Environmental Protection Agency is considering an effective ban of a chemical compound called ethylene oxide. However, abruptly eliminating the chemical from use could have profound negative consequences for manufacturers and make modern life much more difficult.

The background: Ethylene oxide is a chemical used in a wide range of products, from textiles to plastics to antifreeze. It’s also used to sterilize certain medical devices—and in some cases, it’s the only chemical effective for that purpose.

The problem: The EPA is considering a new regulation that would set the acceptable levels of the chemical in the atmosphere so low that it amounts to a ban on the compound.

  • “If you took a monitor outside in any U.S. city center, where no manufacturing production occurs, the level of ethylene oxide would be higher than the level the EPA is proposing,” said NAM Vice President of Domestic Policy Brandon Farris.
  • “So anywhere that manufactures or uses ethylene oxide would be above the level they’re suggesting. The EPA is effectively banning it by creating a level that’s so low it can’t possibly be met.”

The impact: Because there are no current substitutes for some uses of ethylene oxide, a de facto ban would have immediate and serious impacts.

  • “If this rule is finalized, a large number of medical devices could no longer be sterilized, and a lot of items that are relied on for modern life, such as textiles, plastics, household cleaners and adhesives, could not be produced in their current form,” said Farris. “If the EPA moves forward with this proposal, there will be no alternatives for the critical uses of this compound.”

The timeline: The final rule is expected to be released in the next few months. If the EPA chooses to finalize the rule in its current form—which would create a de facto ban on production and usage—manufacturers would be required to find a replacement for the chemical immediately. Developing a replacement in such a short amount of time will be difficult if not impossible.

Read the full story here.

Policy and Legal

Why the SEC’s Climate Rule Won’t Work

clouds in a blue sky

Next on our list of misguided, burdensome regulations is a Securities and Exchange Commission misstep: climate rules that would force manufacturers to meet impossible deadlines and disclose sensitive information, without doing anything to protect investors.

The background: Last year, the SEC proposed a new rule that would require companies to disclose a massive amount of information, much of it impractical to collect or immaterial to investors.

  • First, the proposed rule requires qualitative descriptions of companies’ climate-related risks and any efforts to respond to those risks, including internal metrics and confidential strategies.
  • Second, it mandates quantitative reporting of companies’ greenhouse gas emissions, while compelling companies to conduct quantitative climate impact analyses within their consolidated financial statements.
  • The result? An unworkable framework that imposes uniform mandates that do not align with manufacturers’ efforts to respond to climate change—but do impose an enormous burden on manufacturers across the country.

The response: The NAM has laid out a series of necessary changes that the SEC must make to reduce compliance costs and limit liability risks associated with the rule’s requirements. Specifically, the NAM is calling on the SEC to do the following:

  • Strike disclosure of Scope 3 emissions, which requires companies to track emissions data from suppliers and customers throughout the supply chain. While some manufacturers are already working to understand these emissions, the data collection, estimation and reporting methodologies are still evolving—and the proposed mandate could have a disproportionate impact on small businesses swept into the reporting regime.
  • Rescind accounting changes that would require climate impact analyses of companies’ consolidated financial statements on a line-by-line basis.
  • Delay annual GHG emissions reporting, granting manufacturers more time to collect and verify data.
  • Adjust the climate-related risk disclosures and Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions reporting requirements to make the provisions less prescriptive and more aligned with existing company practices.
  • Fine-tune the guidelines for reporting on climate-related goals to avoid penalizing companies that set ambitious targets.
  • Remove requirements that companies disclose competitively sensitive information about the internal tools they use to understand and plan for climate risks, scenarios and activities.

NAM in action: Since the SEC first unveiled this attempt at regulatory overreach, the NAM has been on the move.

  • The NAM led more than 50 other manufacturing associations in a letter calling on Congress to insist that the SEC develop a more workable version of the rule.
  • The NAM also urged Congress to exercise stricter oversight of the SEC, push back against the agency’s regulatory onslaught and ensure the SEC’s rules remain within the agency’s statutory authority.
  • NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons made revising the climate rule a focal point of the NAM’s corporate finance agenda.
  • And last, NAM Managing Vice President of Policy Chris Netram testified about the harms to small manufacturers that would result from the climate rule at a House Financial Services Committee hearing.

The last word: “Manufacturers are leaders in responding to climate change and in informing investors about this critical work, but the SEC’s climate rule is simply unworkable,” said NAM Vice President of Domestic Policy Charles Crain. “Given the complex nature of manufacturing supply chains, the rule’s costly mandates will have a disproportionate impact on our industry—and particularly on small manufacturers. The SEC must rescind, or at a minimum significantly revise, its overreaching and impractical proposal.”  

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The NAM is leading the charge in urging the Biden administration to walk back a proposed revision to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

With the release of a letter signed by more than 70 associations representing nearly every sector of the U.S. economy and a new video advertisement, the NAM is highlighting how these regulatory actions would devastate the economy and actively undermine President Biden’s goal to expand manufacturing in the United States.

What’s going on: When the Environmental Protection Agency set forth the tentative new air quality standards earlier this year, manufacturers quickly recognized that if enacted, the new rules would put an undue burden on the industry—and could force companies to move operations overseas.

  • Soon, manufacturers and related associations across the country began to speak out about the harm to their operations and communities, even as they affirmed the industry’s longstanding commitment to a clean, safe environment for all.

The background: The EPA’s proposed changes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards—currently under review by the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs— would lower the primary annual particulate matter standard from 12.0 µg/m3 to between 8.0 and 10.0 µg/m3.

  • The EPA has estimated the total cost of the controls required for compliance with the proposed standard at up to $1.8 billion—and that figure could go higher, the agency admitted.
  • What’s more, some areas in the U.S. are already in “nonattainment” with the current PM2.5 standard, so a stricter standard will only put them further away from compliance and economic growth.

The costs: According to an analysis by Oxford Analytics and commissioned by the NAM, the revisions would:

  • Threaten nearly $200 billion of economic activity and put up to a million current jobs at risk, both directly from manufacturing and indirectly from supply chain spending;
  • In addition, growth in restricted areas may be constrained, limiting investment and expansion over the coming years; if the PM2.5 standard moves to 8 from the current 12, nearly 40% of the country will live in nonattainment areas, putting jobs and livelihoods at risk as factories may no longer be able to operate if located in an area that is in nonattainment, and no new facilities can be built to grow economic prospects; and
  • Hit California’s manufacturing sector hardest, followed by Michigan and Illinois.

Speaking out: Many manufacturers from all sectors, along with related associations, have made their concerns public.

  • Michael Canty, president and CEO of Alloy Precision Technologies of Mentor, Ohio, pointed out that these regulations may force companies to move production to other countries that don’t care about emissions reductions, unlike the U.S.
  • Mark Biel, CEO of the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois, also worries that this regulation could make his state less attractive for manufacturers, despite its many assets.
  • Dawn Crandall, executive vice president of government relations for the Home Builders Association of Michigan, decried the potential knock-on effects for Michigan’s suffering housing market.

The last word: The proposed changes “would risk jobs and livelihoods by making it even more difficult to obtain permits for new factories, facilities and infrastructure to power economic growth,” leadership from approximately 70 industry groups told White House Chief of Staff Jeffrey Zients yesterday.

  • The revisions “would also threaten successful implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act and the important clean energy provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act. … We urge you to ensure the EPA maintains the existing fine particulate matter standards to [safeguard] both continued environmental protection and economic growth.”
Policy and Legal

Environmental Firm Langan Takes on ‘Forever Chemicals’

a person standing in a field

The race to remove PFAS from its remaining industry uses is on—and according to Langan’s Stewart Abrams, must be “a sprint, not a jog.”

In high demand: Abrams is a principal and director of remediation technology at Langan, a national environmental and engineering firm. He leads the consulting firm’s remediation practice, specializing in the treatment of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, chemical compounds that were used widely in household products—including fire extinguishers—for decades.

  • It’s an area of expertise that will soon be highly sought after, given the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal earlier this year of drinking water maximum contaminant levels (MCL) of 4 parts per trillion (ppt) for both PFOA and PFOS. This will not only affect drinking water but will become an important standard for remediation sites as well.
  • Langan has clients—including property owners and developers—who focus on the removal of PFAS from contaminated groundwater.

“What’s possible”: “Part of what Langan is doing is focusing on what is possible” regarding PFAS removal, Abrams said.

  • “We’re looking at the treatment of groundwater and drinking water. We’re also working on how to deliver existing and new technologies to site cleanup. We’re going to have to move faster than ever before to bring these technologies to the marketplace. It’s a sprint, not a jog.”

Land remediation: Langan has long worked with property developers, helping them clear land of contaminants before building begins. PFAS issues, however, have changed the game considerably.

  • “Now we’re looking at projects [for clients] where the question is, ‘How do you use water or land that’s been PFAS-contaminated?’” Abrams said.
  • “Some companies have legacy contamination at the sites” they want to build on, and solutions aren’t always forthcoming, he continued.

Airports and PFAS: Another significant Langan customer sector? The aviation industry. Since 2022, airlines operating at California airports may no longer use PFAS in firefighting foam, a common use of the compounds for many years owing to their fire-extinguishing capabilities.

  • “They’ve had to adopt new methods of firefighting at [California] airports,” said Abrams of Langan’s aviation clients in that state. “It’s hard because you need a lot of this fluid to address a fire given the amount of fuel on an airplane. The problem is that often the large water reservoirs at these airports have until recently contained a lot of PFAS.”
  • That contamination isn’t limited to the water, Abrams added, but extends to everything the PFAS has touched. “Everything in the [firefighting] systems—the pumps, the nozzles, the piping—are contaminated, as is the storage reservoir itself. Part of the complexity of removal is cleaning all of it and then finding an alternative” surfactant, a chemical compound that can effectively extinguish fire.
  • In addition, the sponge-like concrete that often lines the reservoirs at airports may have absorbed the chemical, requiring removal and replacement.

Finding solutions: About a decade ago, Langan and the New Jersey Institute of Technology began an informal research partnership.

  • Members of Langan’s staff have access to NJIT’s environmental engineering laboratories, where they can set up experiments to solve client challenges. Now the company is leveraging that relationship to find solutions to PFAS problems.
  • The labs are “a great [place] to bring in new ways of doing things with PFAS,” Abrams told us. “We’re exploring new treatment methods, new characterization methods, and we will be working to accelerate those technologies to market.”

Taking practical action: The strong carbon-fluorine bonds in PFAS chemicals render them harder to destroy than other contaminants, Abrams noted. 

  • “Unlike with other compounds—particularly volatile organic compounds and chlorinated solvents—with PFAS, we can’t quite track down all of it,” he continued. “It’s out there in the environment; it would be extremely difficult to chase down every molecule. Instead, we want to bring a theme of pragmatism to PFAS cleanup.”
Policy and Legal

Michigan Homebuilders Push Back on Air Quality Proposal

a large lawn in front of a house

“Policy can’t be developed in a vacuum,” says Dawn Crandall, executive vice president of government relations for the Home Builders Association of Michigan. “People need to look at how one policy impacts that next thing. Everything is tied together.”

That’s Crandall’s message for the Environmental Protection Agency, as it considers a proposed air quality rule to restrict particles called PM2.5. While the regulations might not appear to impact the housing industry directly, they could prevent manufacturers from expanding facilities and creating jobs in Michigan—which does affect the housing market.

The concern: If manufacturers are unable to grow in the state or open new facilities, fewer people will need housing. That’s bad news for homebuilders.

  • “If you put in these EPA regulations that are going to create a barrier for companies looking to move here, and then they decide they don’t want to, that’s going to impact Michigan’s ability to be an economic destination,” said Crandall.
  • “And if you make it harder for businesses to employ employees, then they don’t need housing. That has a big impact on us.”

A shaky foundation: Michigan’s housing industry is still recovering from the significant downturn it experienced about 15 years ago.

  • That slump was dramatic: according to Crandall, the number of permits filed in Michigan for single-family homes fell sharply from 54,721 in 2005 to around 15,000 two years later, bottoming out to about 6,900 in 2009.
  • Although the industry has seen some recovery since then, new construction remains relatively low, and Crandall worries that shocks caused by the EPA’s proposed regulations could do further harm.
  • “I think we’ve hit rock bottom, and we’re slowly coming out of it,” said Crandall. “But we’re only projecting 16,000 single-family permit builds this year—and anything that’s going to impact residential construction is not good for the state of Michigan.”

Another challenge: Ultimately, Crandall is concerned that the EPA’s proposed rule will simply add to a long list of challenges for homebuilders.

  • “We’re already facing enough hurdles,” said Crandall. “There’s a lack of skilled workers who can do residential construction. Material costs peaked during COVID. We get a lot of our lumber from Canada, so these Canadian wildfires could have an impact. So if PM2.5 is going to affect economic development in our state, that’s going to have an impact on us, too.”

The big idea: “We’re all connected in some form or fashion,” said Crandall. “Michigan needs to grow our population, and we can’t do that if companies don’t bring people into our state who want to live, work and play here. We’re one big ecosystem.”

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