Since January of 2013 members of the brick industry have been developing relationships with members of Congress. This has involved many visits to offices to speak with both staff and members of Congress themselves. A clear message was delivered to Capitol Hill, regulations being written by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) are burdensome, costly, and excessive. This message has resonated very well with many members of Congress. Since 2013 Congress has sent letters to EPA asking them to be reasonable in their rules when it comes to the brick industry as well as to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) when they were reviewing the economic impact of the Brick MACT.

The relationship building paid off when the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce wrote the Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns (BRICK) Act. This act quite simply allows for all litigation on the Brick MACT to be settled before the clock starts ticking on the compliance deadline. This prevents the industry from having to comply with the rule and then having it vacated post compliance again, saving jobs, money, and even companies.

 



L: Ed Watson and Kay Granger R-TX; R: Ed Watson and Martha Roby R-AL.

 

The BRICK act was introduced by Representative Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), who has been willing to stand up and protect the brick industry since he first met with Janet Kaboth of Whitacre Greer. Speaking before the Energy and Commerce committee Johnson said “Forcing brick and tile companies to comply with a costly, job-killing rule that is still pending in the courts makes no sense. The majority of U.S. brick plants are small, family-owned operations, often located in small communities that depend on the plant for good-paying jobs. However, in order to comply with these new EPA requirements, many brick companies – who are already struggling to find capital for plant modernization projects – would be forced to come up with millions of dollars to pay for control equipment that provides no return on investment.”

Henry Brick’s Davis Henry and McAvoy Brick’s Creighton "Butch" McAvoy were invited to speak in front of the committee and let them know how the EPA is affecting their business. There was a lot of support for the BRICK Act and very few questions from those that were opposed to it. The bill left the committee with votes going along party lines and it would go before the entire House of Representatives.

 



L: Henry Davis and John Shimkus R-IL; R: Ed Watson and Bruce Westerman R-AR.

 

The Brick Industry Association’s Environment Health and Safety department launched a letter writing campaign to garner support for the bill in the full House vote. In total there were 660 letters that were sent to 192 members of Congress. With the help of Lobbyit.com, Ed Watson was able to make a consolidated effort to visit Congressional offices and encourage them to support and vote for the bill. The BRICK Act and our message of regulatory common sense connected with many members and on March 3 while the bill was before the House, many Representatives spoke up in support.

“Most companies that find themselves threatened by this rule are small businesses – many are family-owned – and the industry is still dealing with the effects of the recession and the weak recovery that continues to suppress demand for bricks and other building materials,” said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“It is also unclear how much of an impact these regulations will have in significantly reducing mercury and non-mercury hazardous air pollutants,” said Representative Bob Latta, (R-Ohio).

The BRICK Act even caught the eye of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). He called the brick industry “the latest target of the Obama administration’s regulatory assault on American manufacturing.”

“The EPA’s burdensome emission standards are another breach of executive power that may well be struck down by the courts, but not before jobs are lost and the industry suffers,” Ryan said.

Support of the bill also crossed party lines. Two of the original co-sponsors were from the Democratic side of the aisle, and they did not miss their chance to speak on behalf of the brick industry.

Representative Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-Georgia) voiced his support after speaking with Kate Sams of Cherokee Brick, saying “A basic material for homebuilding and construction, bricks are more than just a figurative cornerstone in the United States construction industry. Passing this legislation would guarantee the EPA would wait until its 2015 emissions standards are reviewed by courts before implementing the rule and before manufacturers across the country are needlessly required to spend millions of dollars.”

Representative Terri Sewell (D-Alabama) added, “I am supportive, Mr. Speaker, of reducing emissions and I’m also in favor of protecting our environment. But this must be done in an economically viable way. It is simply unfair for regulators to continue to move back the goal posts on small brick manufacturers like Henry Brick Company.”

 


At the end of the day, by a 238-163 vote in which seven Democrats voted in support and no Republicans voting against, the House passed legislation that would put the EPA rule on hold until courts decide lawsuits challenging the regulation’s legality. This is a huge development for the brick industry and one that everyone should be proud of. Thank you to everyone that sent a letter or paid a visit to Washington DC.

The process will begin again soon as a bill now has to go through the Senate.