Rep. Dent: Why stimulus funds for cement importation terminal?

During an Oct. 13 press conference at the Keystone Cement Company in East Allen Township, Pa., U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (Pa.-15) questioned the use of federal government financing to support the construction of a cement importation terminal in Staten Island, N.Y.

Dent, Co-Chair of the House Cement Caucus, was joined by employees from all five cement producers in the Lehigh Valley, including local members of the United Steelworkers (USW) and Teamsters unions, in calling on the Obama Administration to reconsider the federal government’s support for this project.

The importation facility, known as the Staten Island Terminal, will be completed with the help of $28 million in bond assistance authorized by the 2009 Stimulus Bill. The new terminal will allow the Peruvian cement producer Cementos Lima to import 25 to 30 cargo ships of South America cement to the New York City region each year, significantly reducing the demand for domestic cement, a key industrial product in the Lehigh Valley economy.

Dent voiced his opposition to the use of federal government financing on this project, saying,

“It is unbelievable that legislation billed as a job creator is providing the key financial backing for a project that will harm a crucial domestic industry and cause the net loss of hundreds of American jobs, largely for the benefit of a foreign competitor.”

It is estimated the amount of cement that will be imported through the Staten Island Terminal each year is equivalent to the annual production of an entire cement plant in the Lehigh Valley (roughly 880,000 tons). Local cement producers are concerned this new terminal may easily result in the closure of one or more plants in Pennsylvania.”

In his comments, Dent was also critical of the Obama Administration and Congressional supporters of the Stimulus Bill for failing to include adequate safeguards in the legislation to prevent the use of tax dollars on projects that ultimately jeopardize American jobs.

“The President and his Congressional allies placed expediency above responsibility when they hastily drafted the stimulus bill, which was sold to the American public as a job creator. A year after its enactment, the American people are discovering the so-called Stimulus not only failed to create sustainable jobs, but is supporting foreign manufacturers at the expense of a historic domestic industry,” Dent said.

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In an August 2010 letter to United Steelworkers (USW) union President Leo Gerard protesting the government’s support for this project, a local USW representative explained, “Enactment of the ARRA [Stimulus Bill] was about creating jobs and rebuilding our deficient roads and bridges. To date, very little ARRA funds have been dedicated for these projects. In this case, an “import cement terminal” was supported by elected representatives without the wisdom of its long term impact on jobs and the use of American made products.” (Letter attached)

Last month, Dent sent a letter to the President imploring him to address growing concerns that foreign companies are benefiting from the Stimulus. In the letter, Dent explained, “I believe it is imperative that the Administration use greater discretion and more thorough analysis when determining the recipients of ARRA support. I am certain you share my belief that ARRA should not benefit foreign companies at the expense of American workers and their families, and will work to remedy this alarming problem before more domestic jobs are lost.”