The View From Here
by Ric Jackson
July 7th, 2015

Vinyl Industry Fly-In: When One Door Closes …

For several years, the annual Vinyl Industry Congressional Fly-In was monopolized by one key issue: garnering General Services Administration (GSA) support to stop using LEED as the one and only green building certification for federal buildings. As we all know, this was an important issue for both wood and vinyl window manufacturers as LEED had de-selection criteria that favored alternate construction choices.

This year, that particular issue was barely a topic of conversation after the Department of Energy (DOE) approved Green Globes as an alternate green certification program. The GSA has also acknowledged the requirement to seek competitive bids from at least two certification programs. We can all count this as a major victory for our industry.

But, as they say, when one door closes, another opens. Or, perhaps two.

This year’s issue list included international trade, water infrastructure, chemical regulation and freight rail rates. While all are important, the two issues that will have some impact on our industry are chemical regulation and freight rail rates – both of which impact costs of raw materials and regulations on chemicals used.

Chemical Regulation

The primary concern of the Vinyl Institute (VI) is that more states are adopting individual chemical regulations, which fragments the country, making selling country-wide more complex.

 According to the official issue brief from VI:  “Unfairly negative characterizations of chemicals threaten jobs, may result in less desirable alternatives being introduced into commerce, and can raise the relative costs of products. These impacts ultimately fall on the consumer. Congress must take a stronger role in encouraging dialogue on chemical evaluations to ensure completeness and fairness.”

The ask: To protect the vinyl industry, and others, from undue loss of business or increased costs, the VI appealed to Congress to reform the TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) to standardize criteria for the country, while taking into account exposure risk vs. regulation,  that simply list any substance with known toxicity issues regardless of practical exposure risks.

Freight Rail Rates

Freight rail rates have increased significantly over the past ten years, far outpacing operating costs. As of now, there is no means to challenge rates while much of the country runs on exclusive rail routes where there is no competition to put pressure on rates.

For our industry, that means raw materials and finished components transported across the country by rail (a fairly regular occurrence) are being shipped at unnecessarily high rates.

The ask of Congress, according to the VI issue brief: “Encourage fairness and competition for freight rail shippers by removing regulatory barriers to competition and ensuring captive shippers have greater access to competing freight rail service.”

The View from Here

The VI and American Chemistry Council (ACC) continue to do a great job of protecting our rights to choose materials that are proven, economical and safe for our products. As always, I encourage you to write to your congressional members to make them aware of these issues and the need for them to support our asks.

What’s your view? Email me directly at eric.jackson@quanex.com.

 

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