American Steel Industry is in Crisis, Industry Executive Tell U.S. Senate - Global Trade Magazine
  March 3rd, 2016 | Written by

American Steel Industry is in Crisis, Industry Executive Tell U.S. Senate

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  • Nucor logistics head: “A glut of global steel production has led to the dumping of steel into the U.S.”
  • Nucor logistics head: Despite the highest level of domestic steel consumption since 2006, foreign producers benefit.
  • The U.S. steel industry’s capacity utilization in 2015 was less than 70 percent.

“The American steel industry is in crisis.”

So said Rob Roberson, director of corporate logistics for the steel maker Nucor Corporation, in testimony before a United States Senate committee.

Roberson appeared before the committee to express support for the reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

Roberson explained: “A glut of global steel production has led to the dumping of steel into the U.S. market at historic levels and in violation of international trade rules. Despite the highest level of domestic steel consumption since 2006, less-efficient foreign producers are benefitting, not domestic

producers. Due to unfairly traded imports, the American steel industry’s capacity utilization in 2015 was less than 70% and pricing for most steel products collapsed.”

What does all this have to do with water resources? The WRDA funds projects to modernize and expand U.S. ports and waterways.

“The ability to use our ports and waterways as a means to provide the most competitive freight solution to the market, gives us an advantage over our foreign competitors,” Roberson explained.

“Every barge we utilize can move up to 1700 net tons of raw material or product,” he added. “This is the equivalent of 17 railcars or almost 80 trucks. When we fail to adequately maintain our ports and inland waterways, companies like ours are forced to use more costly and less efficient shipping alternatives, which threatens our ability to deliver goods to our customers in a cost effective manner. A well-functioning inland waterways and port system also gives Nucor access to an effective distribution channel to fight against surging steel imports that have crippled much of the domestic steel industry.”

The WRDA legislation, first passed in 2000, made changes to the way water infrastructure projects are approved and funded. That bill helped streamline project approval by removing redundant studies and expediting permits. It also recognized the importance of funding for harbor maintenance and the dredging of inland waterways.

“The 2016 reauthorization can build on these changes and address several issues that have emerged since the last WRDA bill was passed,” said Roberson. Specifically, Roberson advocated for permanently applying Buy America provisions to more programs funded by the legislation.

“This will help stimulate job growth in the iron and steel industries, and encourage research and development and capital investment here at home,” he said.

“Since 2009, Nucor has invested over 6 billion dollars in our U.S. facilities because we believe so strongly in the American economy and American workers,” Roberson added. “We need Congress’ help to ensure a competitive environment here at home that allows domestic steel producers to realize the benefits of a growing U.S. economy.”

Though Congress is supposed to pass Water Resources Development Act legislation every two years, the process had become irregular in the recent past. Previous versions were enacted in 2000 and 2007, and then in 2014.

Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), chair of the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, at a hearing on WRDA reauthorization, said that “we intend to move a smaller WRDA bill this Congress.” Gibbs said the “bill will be consensus driven and bipartisan.”