U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann challenges EPA's foundry rules

photo Bobby Harper hangs cookware pieces at Lodge Manufacturing.
photo Rep. Chuck Fleischmann

WASHINGTON - Joined by dozens of fellow lawmakers, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., sent a letter Monday to the Environmental Protection Agency challenging a regulation that could hurt Lodge Manufacturing Co. in South Pittsburg and other American foundries.

The regulation targets "mineral processing industries" such as gypsum and talc producers and deals with air quality and emission standards. Fleischmann argues that the rule should not apply to foundries because the EPA expressly intended to exempt them.

"Metal casting is not a mineral processing industry," the Ooltewah Republican's letter states.

Still, the EPA in recent months has enforced the air quality regulations at foundries in the Midwest. Industry experts said it's because foundries purchase a type of industrial sand that the EPA regulates at the supplier level.

Fleischmann considers the situation an example of an overzealous federal bureaucracy he has deplored since entering Congress in 2011. His letter seeks a formal exemption for foundries. Much of its text borrows from the website of the American Foundry Society, a Washington-based lobbying organization.

"Foundries are essential to the U.S. economy," Fleischmann wrote. "Every sector relies on metal castings, with 90 percent of all manufactured goods and capital equipment incorporating engineered castings into their makeup."

An EPA spokeswoman based in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

The letter comes a few months after EPA officials dealt with groundwater contamination in Chattanooga. Researchers discovered foundry sand that included arsenic and lead at the First Tennessee Pavilion.

Fleischmann spokesman Tyler Threadgill said the new EPA regulation would cost the average foundry $80,000 to comply.

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Dave Shouse of the South Pittsburg-based Lodge Manufacturing -- the last American maker of cast-iron cookware -- said the regulation hinders his company's ability to compete on a global scale.

"We want to see jobs stay in the U.S., and particularly in Tennessee," Shouse said in a statement, adding that the regulation never was intended to apply to foundries. "We feel regulations such as this work against that objective."

Eighty-seven lawmakers, including some Democrats, signed the letter before Fleischmann's office mailed it Monday. Signatures include House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa.

Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfreepress.com or 423-280-2025.