By Chris Jahn
Pennsylvania is a special state for me: It’s the home of my favorite football team and six-time Super Bowl title holder, the Pittsburgh Steelers; and it’s one of the largest chemistry-producing states in the country, employing more than 23,000 hard-working Americans who make the products that make sustainability possible. These are good jobs. They pay about 15 percent higher than the average manufacturing wage in the state.
And as I’ll explain below and in my upcoming talk at the PA Chamber’s 2023 Annual Environmental Conference, chemical industry employees who call Pennsylvania home are needed now more than ever to support our industry’s progress in creating solutions for a better tomorrow.
Responsible Care® is driving safety and sustainability
For the chemical industry, sustainability is not just a buzzword. Chemicals are quite literally the building blocks for a cleaner, safer, and healthier way of life. And Responsible Care is at the heart of that progress.
Launched in the U.S. in 1988, Responsible Care is our industry’s signature safety and sustainability initiative, driving continual improvement and supporting innovative progress in manufacturing operations and our supply chain. These include priority areas such as climate; water; air; sustainable chemistry and product innovation; circularity; and diversity and inclusion.
Under Responsible Care, American Chemistry Council (ACC) member companies have achieved:
- A worker safety rate five times better than the U.S. manufacturing sector overall;
- A 12 percent decrease in GHG emissions intensity since 2017; and
- An 18 percent reduction in SOx emissions and 39 percent reduction in NOx emissions since 2017.
What we do matters—but as our progress under Responsible Care helps illustrate, how we do it is equally important, both to us and the community we serve.
Unfortunately, our nation’s success is being threatened by a growing problem—regulatory overreach—and the source of the problem is the very same Administration that is asking our industry to innovate to help solve global challenges.
Burdensome regulations threaten U.S. competitiveness
Chemical manufacturers are solutions providers, and the products they create are essential to our modern lives and our nation. They enable resilient infrastructure and renewable energy technologies, including electric vehicles and solar technology.
ACC and its members support responsible regulation that puts science first, promotes innovation, and supports supply chain resiliency. However, a surge in new restrictions and lack of coordination within the Biden Administration is handicapping the chemical industry’s ability to create these products.
I want to be clear: This isn’t about partisanship or politics. It’s just facts. And the fact is, the Biden Administration is proposing regulations on the economy – specifically our industry – at a level that we have never seen before. For example, were the U.S. to implement just 13 of the many proposed regulations, it would quickly add up to an additional $7 billion per year on the U.S. economy, according to estimates.
These new proposed restrictions could limit access to and increase the cost of essential products, jeopardize America’s economy and our ability to compete with countries like China, and delay progress for other industries that rely on chemistry.
The restrictions also contradict the Administration’s policy priorities set forth by laws like the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), and CHIPS and Science Act.
If proposed regulations stifle or backfire policy goals set forth by the Biden Administration, what’s the point?
Pennsylvanians: Let your voice be heard
The broad swath of regulations targeting our industry indicate a lack of vision and appreciation for chemistry’s role in creating solutions that Pennsylvania and our country needs.
Chemical manufacturers are not alone with our concerns. When we reached out to see what the local community thought, we learned that:
- Four out of five Pennsylvanians believe the chemical sector is essential to the U.S. economy.
- The majorities of Pennsylvania Republicans, Democrats, and Independents we surveyed share our concerns about the potential impact of expanded chemical restrictions on domestic manufacturing jobs and state infrastructure projects.
- Specifically, 73 percent of Pennsylvanians surveyed say they are concerned about the potential impact of increased restrictions on the U.S. chemical sector on local economies who depend on it.
- And 74 percent of Pennsylvanians are concerned that additional restrictions on the chemical sector could harm the cost of living.
Together, we can address these flawed regulations.
We are confident that by working as partners, many of these regulations can be rightsized in ways that keep strong regulations in place and Americans safe without banning chemistries outright, or regulating them at trace levels, which are de facto bans.
We must work together to find a better, more thoughtful way to regulate our industry that does not sacrifice national priorities and U.S. leadership.
American success relies on American chemistry. That’s why ACC is calling on the Biden Administration and Congress to support frameworks that celebrate innovation and accelerate progress.
Please consider taking action with us and learn how you can continue to play an important role in achieving sustainability progress at chemistrycreates.org.
Chris Jahn is President & CEO of the American Chemistry Council.