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Biz advocate Toomey keeping eye on EPA

| Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 4:47 a.m.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Allentown, tours the U.S. Steel Irvin Plant Monday with plant manager Amy Smith-Yoder and, at right, U.S. Steel Mon Valley Works general manager Scott Buckiso. Patrick Cloonan | Daily News
In a ceremony Monday at the Mon Valley Works Irvin Plant in West Mifflin, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Allentown, receives a National Association of Manufacturers award for manufacturing legislative excellence from U.S. Steel Mon Valley Works general manager Scott Buckiso and general manager of government affairs and public policy Christopher Masciantonio. Patrick Cloonan | Daily News  

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey said on Monday his role as an advocate for business includes keeping a constant eye on the Environmental Protection Agency.

“EPA has an important function ... but sometimes they get a little unreasonable,” Toomey said in West Mifflin, where he received a National Association of Manufacturers legislative excellence award during a visit to U.S. Steel Corp.'s Irvin Plant.

Toomey, 51, a Lehigh Valley Republican, said lawmakers “need to make sure the EPA takes a balanced approach.”

Regional EPA officials did not return calls requesting comment at presstime.

Association officials said Toomey voted 92 percent right on key issues before the 112th Congress, including energy policy, taxes and regulations.

“We appreciate his support,” said Joseph Curtin, an association member and executive chairman at Tube City IMS in Glassport.

Tube City is a major supplier to U.S. Steel Mon Valley, Alabama and Gary, Ind., plants, and a purchaser of scrap from U.S. Steel's McKeesport Tubular Operations.

“Sen. Toomey's votes ... support a pro-manufacturing agenda and are important to us,” said Christopher Masciantonio, U.S. Steel's general manager for government affairs.

This is the fourth time the association has honored Toomey, who also was cited by the manufacturers after each of his terms in the U.S. House.

The Irvin Plant, another part of the Mon Valley Works, produces flat-rolled steel products for energy, appliance and container industries.

The Mon Valley Works employs about 3,000 combined at Irvin, Clairton, the Edgar Thomson Plant in Braddock and Fairless Hills near Philadelphia.

Toomey's visit came the day before U.S. Steel is scheduled to issue its fourth quarter earnings report. The company had an up-and-down 2012, with second quarter net income of $101 million but third quarter totaling only $44 million.

The company said flat-rolled and European segments were profitable in the third quarter but challenged by difficult global economic conditions.

The company said its flat-rolled segment including the Mon Valley Works also was impacted by increased import levels.

Imports also have affected tubular operations including those in McKeesport.

On Dec. 7, U.S. Steel laid off 142 hourly employees from McKeesport, leaving behind 95 employees at the former Camp-Hill Corp. facility returned to U.S. Steel in April 2011.

At the time, the United Steelworkers expressed optimism that the layoff would be short-lived.

In July 2011, Toomey toured the Clairton plant, whose coke ovens are undergoing a $500 million overhaul. The work includes replacing coke Batteries 7-9 with a technologically and environmentally advanced C Battery, rehabilitating Batteries 1-3, and installing two low-emission quench towers.

U.S. Steel plans a commissioning ceremony on Thursday for C Battery.

Toomey emphasized a need to deal with “a huge mounting debt and overregulation” in Clairton and West Mifflin.

“Washington spending doesn't lift people out of poverty,” Toomey said. “Folks who are in the manufacturing part of our economy are playing such an important role.”

Because of natural gas from the Marcellus shale, Toomey said, “U.S. Steel and other Pennsylvania manufacturers have a competitive advantage over anyone else in the world.”

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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