industrial facilities, sometimes described as “tweaks,” constitute “modifications” under the Clean Air Act and therefore subject them to EPA’s NSR permitting process which typically takes more than a year.
“Such an interpretation, favored by environmental groups, would expand the scope of the program and impede the ability of manufacturers to innovate and of electric utilities to respond to growing consumer and industry demands for energy,” said Quentin Riegel, NAM’s vice president for litigation.
Riegel compared the issue to car maintenance. “If you change the tires or spark plugs on your ’67 Ford Falcon, you’re not obligated to retrofit the classic car with a catalytic converter, air bags and tinted safety glass,” he said.
“The NSR program is a complex permitting process that results in costly and lengthy delays and endless litigation when a manufacturing facility or power plant upgrades equipment. The delays stand in the way of installation of more energy efficient technologies.”
The National Association of Manufacturers announced positions on a series of topics over the past two weeks including the economic outlook, its new program to address a lack of skilled workers in manufacturing, and the organization’s opinion related to a lower court ruling on a new EPA regulation.
The National Association of Manufacturers pointed to the most recent Labor Department employment report as an indication that the economy is continuing to moderate from robust growth that took place earlier in the year. “The addition of 128,000 jobs in August, on par with the jobs created during the prior two months, shows that the economy is in a decelerating mode,” said David Huether, the NAM’s chief economist.
“While manufacturing employment fell by 11,000 in August, after a 23,000 decline in July, it has edged up by 12,000 to a level of 14.2 million over the past year,” he said.
“However, this modest change overshadows an emerging dichotomy within manufacturing: Over the past year, production employment that’s jobs on the factory floor have increased by 150,000 while non-production jobs have fallen by 138,000.”
Huether reports that of the 22 major manufacturing sectors, 10 have added 226,000 jobs over past 12 months. Half of these increases were in computers and electronics and transportation products outside of motor vehicles such as aircraft.
At the same time, production employment fell 76,000 in the remaining 12 sectors, with half of these declines concentrated in textiles and motor vehicles.
“These figures show that while some manufacturing sectors are benefiting from solid growth in exports and business investment, other sectors are significantly challenged by rising import competition and the effects of high gasoline prices,” he said.
The NAM’s 2006 Labor Day report looks more closely at how rising energy costs have impacted the American worker and the need for more domestic production. Find more at NAM’s Web site, www.nam.org.
Results from NAM’s annual Small Manufacturers Operating Survey point to a glaring problem for America’s manufacturers: a lack of qualified workers to fill highly skilled positions.
“This skills gap reflects a perfect storm that is quickly converging on manufacturers in their effort to fill factory floor jobs,” said President John Engler. “The need for technologically knowledgeable employees is expanding and global competition is increasing even as the Baby Boom generation begins retiring.”
Of the 467 small to medium size manufacturers interviewed in June 2006, 46.3 percent point to “finding qualified employees” as a serious problem for their company.
“America can’t compete without skilled workers,” Engler said. “Eighty percent of NAM members have trouble finding qualified employees for today’s high-tech workplace and the problem is only getting worse. While the Baby Boomers are retiring out the back door we aren’t seeing enough young, qualified Americans coming through the front door to fill these jobs.”
In an effort to narrow this gap, The Manufacturing Institute, NAM’s research and education arm, launched Dream It. Do It. in Lincoln, NE and will launch the program in southwest Virginia in early October. These campaigns come just a year after launching the pilot program in Kansas City. “Unfortunately, too many young people have an outdated view of manufacturing and don’t consider it to be an interesting or rewarding career,” Engler said.
In legal news, the National Association of Manufacturers is joining several other business groups in an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a lower court ruling in an important case related to the Environmental Protection Agency’s New Source Review (NSR) regulations.
The case, Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy Corp., focuses on whether routine maintenance procedures at existing power plants and