Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the Texas CHIPS Act into law, which invests $1.4 billion in semiconductor research and manufacturing efforts across Texas. This measure builds on the landmark CHIPS and Science Act that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden last year.
Efforts like these have made clear that lawmakers at the state and federal level want to spur more domestic manufacturing — or “reindustrialization,” as described by National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard. However, regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency are advancing a proposal that would stop these efforts in their tracks.
The agency proposed a rule earlier this year that would significantly tighten the limits on fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5. While PM2.5 concentrations in the U.S. have declined by over 40% since 2000, the EPA is ignoring this progress and lowering the boom on domestic industry, endangering some of the very projects the Biden administration has championed — from transit projects to semiconductor fabrication facilities.
There’s no question that air quality is vital to our quality of life, and industries do — and will continue to —invest millions of dollars in innovative technologies that are successfully reducing environmental impacts. However, the EPA’s proposal to ratchet up the PM2.5 regulations is a misguided attempt to bolster their environmental bona fides doing little to benefit the environment while placing an undue burden on American manufacturers and threatening thousands of jobs and the goods every American relies on.
The unique burden with PM2.5 regulations is that the emission is notoriously difficult, if not impossible, to contain. For example, dust associated with crops and livestock is Texas’ largest source of PM2.5, according to the EPA — almost a quarter of the total. When combined with the next three largest contributors — prescribed fires, wildfires and unpaved roads — these natural sources represent over 62% of Texas PM2.5 emissions.
Additionally, Texas air quality is often affected by pollutants from Mexico, leaving Texas businesses to pay the price. While imposing harsh restrictions on Texas industry will do nothing to reduce those emissions generated in Mexico, they will saddle our manufacturers with compliance costs that will push up consumer prices for a wide range of goods, worsening inflation and the nation’s overall financial condition. Time and again, the federal government has tried to enact sweeping regulations without examining the real impact they would have on everyday Americans and our nation’s economic security
Locally, some Dallas residents have raised concerns with PM2.5 emissions associated with concrete batch plants. The reality is cement manufacturing represents only 0.2% of Texas PM2.5 emissions, ranking 27th behind commercial cooking, train engines and paper manufacturing. This is due in large part to the investments concrete manufacturers have made in innovative technology, prioritizing the health and safety of their neighbors and employees above all else. In turn, these facilities produce concrete required for homes, businesses, and infrastructure.
These batch plants are a part of the large manufacturing industry in Texas which employs nearly 900,000 people across our state, contributing $227 billion in economic output for the Texas economy in 2021. Our workforce and outputs are major drivers of Texas’ growth, accounting for approximately 12% of total gross state product, with an average compensation of more than $93,000 a year. Any attempts from the EPA to overregulate this vital industry could put thousands of jobs at risk and stifle the very innovation that has already drastically improved air quality. A recent study released by the National Association of Manufacturers found that the EPA’s revised PM2.5 standards threaten 29,000 jobs and over $15 billion in manufacturing economic activity in Texas alone.
Estimates indicate that a lower PM2.5 threshold will trigger many Texas communities into a nonattainment designation, requiring a host of regulations on businesses and local governments to force compliance and lower PM2.5 emissions. The cost to businesses and consumers will be significant and potentially futile — as mentioned, the largest PM2.5 sources are naturally occurring and difficult to regulate.
With unmatched environmental investments and a robust and well-paid workforce, manufacturers across the United States consistently demonstrate that improving the health of our planet and our people is a top priority. Every day, our manufacturing industry is working to deliver the products that families rely on, driving innovation that keeps our air and water clean, and sustaining millions of good-paying jobs across the country. These goals work in precise balance to ensure manufacturing can continue to grow and meet the needs of the public, while investing in a clean future for us all.