News Column

Steel Industry Sets Agenda for Election

April 13, 2012

Len Boselovic

Lower corporate tax rates, sounder energy policy, better infrastructure, less burdensome regulations and fair trade top the U.S. steel industry's agenda this presidential election year, industry leaders said Wednesday.

U.S. Steel Chairman and CEO John P. Surma said enacting measures to address those concerns will bolster a manufacturing sector that is leading the nation out of the recession.

He made the comments in a conference call hosted by the American Iron and Steel Institute, an industry group Mr. Surma heads. His comments were echoed by institute President and CEO Thomas Gibson, who said the industry group is working hard to convince Congress to approve a long-term transportation bill.

Lawmakers passed a temporary measure last month that extends highway funding for 90 days after failing to overcome partisan differences over how much to spend and how the work should be funded. Mr. Gibson urged Congress to approve a long-term solution with consistent funding so that states can start planning large construction projects that address the nation's infrastructure problems and support economic growth.

"What's clearly the weak link at this time is construction," he said.

Mr. Gibson said one roadblock to moving ahead with infrastructure improvements has been the objections of some House Republicans to generating revenue for highway projects.

"This is a must-do function of government. Only the federal government can do this," he said.

Mr. Surma said repairing the nation's crumbling locks and dams, whose deteriorating condition was highlighted in a recent Post-Gazette series, should be "a high priority."

A bill that calls for a 30 percent increase in the diesel fuel tax barge operators pay to fund river infrastructure projects was introduced March 30.

Congress will have to resolve differences over the highway funding bill before taking up the waterways measure, Mr. Gibson said.

Mr. Surma also urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider proposed regulations, saying many of the measures the agency has in mind would increase the industry's costs while providing "little or no environmental benefit."

As an example, he cited a proposal that would force steel producers to waste gases produced by coke ovens instead of using the energy to power boilers.

Source: (c)2012 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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