The chemical industry has a wide reach. According to Mark Biel, CEO of the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois, 96% of products made in the United States are either manufactured by the chemical industry itself or using materials it produces.
- “We make everything from cell phones to packaging,” said Biel. “People don’t realize the integral role that chemistry plays in their lives.”
And for Illinois in particular, the chemical industry isn’t just making products—it’s making careers.
- “Our state has 46,000 people in the chemical industry, and the average wage is a little over $114,000,” said Biel. “We are the second largest manufacturing sector in Illinois, which is the fourth largest chemical processing state. Folks don’t realize how large and important the chemical industry is to Illinois.”
But as the Environmental Protection Agency considers imposing a new, stricter air quality standard for particles called PM2.5, chemical manufacturers in Illinois are sounding the alarm. According to Biel, the new regulations misunderstand the situation—and threaten to cause irreparable harm for manufacturers across the state.
The background: Manufacturers have long been committed to reducing particulates in the air, including PM2.5, and have made huge strides over the past half-century. But to further reduce PM2.5 will be a tall order.
- “We should be focused on enforcing the regulations we already have in the books,” said Biel. “The U.S. already has strong regulations in place—ones that many areas are still working to meet. Let us be smart about new regulations, which means we should not change air permitting before meeting current standards.”
The local angle: For the chemical industry in Illinois, the changes could be particularly damaging.
- With access to waterways, relatively inexpensive electricity and extensive natural gas pipeline infrastructure, the St. Louis and Chicagoland areas of Illinois are hubs for the national chemical industry.
- However, if the EPA’s standards become stricter, it could deter investments to these metro areas significantly.
- “It’s difficult enough to permit a new facility in the Chicagoland area, and when you throw on additional burdens, it makes it harder and harder to justify making the investment in these facilities,” said Biel.
The global stage: Especially at a time when many manufacturers are looking for ways to bring investments and supply chains back to the United States, this kind of onerous regulation could create a stumbling block.
- “Our lawmakers want manufacturing to come back to the U.S., but this regulation does the exact opposite,” said Biel. “With all the new investment, it’s important that more and more manufacturers locate in the U.S. to avoid supply chain complications and delays. This regulation hinders that development.”
The last word: “I’m bullish on the long-term prospects for our industry, but sometimes the EPA loses sight of the reality that their regulations are already sufficient,” said Biel. “The current PM2.5 standard has worked. But this proposal goes far beyond that and will hinder a crucial opportunity for the industry to grow in the U.S.”
Washington, D.C. – Ahead of the midterm elections, the National Association of Manufacturers released its policy roadmap, “Competing to Win,” a comprehensive blueprint featuring immediate solutions for bolstering manufacturers’ competitiveness. It is also a roadmap for policymakers on the laws and regulations needed to strengthen the manufacturing industry in the months and years ahead.
With the country facing rising prices, snarled supply chains and geopolitical turmoil, manufacturers are outlining an actionable competitiveness agenda that Americans across the political spectrum can support. “Competing to Win” includes the policies manufacturers in America will need in place to continue driving the country forward.
“‘Competing to Win’ offers a path for bringing our country together around policies, shared values and a unified purpose,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “The NAM is putting forward a plan filled with ideas that policymakers could pursue immediately, including solutions to urgent problems, such as energy security, immigration reform, supply chain disruptions, the ongoing workforce shortage and more. Manufacturers have shown incredible resilience through difficult times, employing more workers now than before the pandemic, but continued resilience is not guaranteed without the policies that are critical to the state of manufacturing in America.”
The NAM and its members will leverage “Competing to Win” to shape policy debates ahead of the midterm elections, in the remainder of the 117th Congress and at the start of the 118th Congress—including in direct engagement with lawmakers, for grassroots activity, across traditional and digital media and through events in key states and districts as we did following the initial rollout of the roadmap in 2016.
The document focuses on 12 areas of action, and all policies are rooted in the values that have made America exceptional and keep manufacturing strong: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.
Learn more about how manufacturers are leading and about the industry’s competitiveness agenda at nam.org/competing-to-win.
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 more than 12.8 million men and women, contributes $2.77 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 58% 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