Major New U.S. Chemical Manufacturing Projects seen at Risk Under EPA Rules

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ICIS news reports that billions of dollars’ worth of new chemical sector and other manufacturing projects may be in jeopardy because of federal pre-construction environmental requirements, industry officials told a U.S. House panel last Wednesday.

The report, authored by ICIS writer Paul Hodges, who studies key influences shaping the chemical industry said that 8 in a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, a top chemicals industry official warned that some of the many new U.S. chemicals production facilities now on the drawing board ultimately could be abandoned because of time-consuming, laborious and confusing federal environmental permitting processes on new construction.

In her testimony on a draft bill aimed at accelerating and clarifying permitting processes at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American Chemistry Council (ACC) regulatory and technical affairs director Lorraine Gershman noted that “As of this week, 177 chemical industry projects valued at $112bn in potential ne U.S. investment have been announced”, with at least 62% of that from foreign investors.

However, she said, “All of these projects must undergo a lengthy and complex environmental permitting process filled with challenges that could derail the investment”.

“Problems include uncertainty as to the schedule for obtaining a final pre-construction permit, a requirement that companies use emission modeling programs that cannot adequately accommodate site-specific data, and the need to address public input and legal challenges,” she said.

And, “once a project is significantly delayed, the project is often scrapped, and companies make plans to proceed elsewhere,” Gershman added.

Gershman was joined by Ross Eisenberg, vice president for energy and resources at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) who complained to the panel that the EPA often alters pre-construction permit criteria while investors are already in the permit application process, creating “conditions that derail the project”.

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