June 07, 2011

Bipartisan Senate Group Introduces Legislation to Help U.S. Soda Ash Producers Compete with Foreign Suppliers

Washington, D.C. – As foreign governments continue to provide unfair subsidies and benefits to give a leg up to their domestic producers of soda ash – a key industrial material in the manufacturing of glass and other products and one of the largest exports out of the Port of Portland – a bipartisan group of Senators have introduced legislation to maintain low Federal royalties on the mineral so that U.S. manufacturers can compete. The Soda Ash Competition Act – introduced by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Bob Menendez (D- NJ), John Barrasso (R- Wyo.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) --  will extend for another five years a program created in 2006 that provided limited royalty relief to producers of soda ash (known as disodium carbonate). The current program is set to expire in October of this year.

“Unfair trade practices by foreign governments have already hurt U.S. manufacturing and without the royalty relief producers have relied on for the last five years, the cost of mining and exporting this important mineral could cause similar havoc in this industry as well,” Wyden said. “The royalty relief on soda ash over the last five years has proved an effective way to level the playing field for domestic producers. In the Port of Portland it is the second largest export moving through the port. With the expiration date rapidly approaching, now is the time for the Senate to take steps to extend the program.”

“At a time when the soda ash industry is recovering from the economic downturn, Congress should do everything it can to promote a competitive industry by extending the reduced royalty rate,” said Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).  “Wyoming soda ash is used in everything from household cleaners to glass used in construction. Keeping royalty rates at a manageable level helps the industry thrive and create more jobs.”

“In these tough economic times, we can't afford to lose American jobs to foreign competitors with an unfair advantage. Extending the Soda Ash Competition Act will continue leveling the playing field for US producers to be able to compete in the global market and keep good-paying manufacturing jobs here at home,” said Senator Menendez.

“Wyoming is the leading producer of soda ash in America,” said Barrasso.  “This industry provides good paying jobs that are vital to the people of Sweetwater County.  In order to keep these jobs in Wyoming, we must ensure that our soda ash industry can compete against unfair foreign trade practices.  This bill encourages American soda ash production, promotes our exports, and keeps royalties reasonable.  This gives American companies the certainty they need to remain competitive in the global market.”

“The soda ash that moves through the Port of Portland is one of our largest exports and helps sustain good-paying jobs in Oregon,” Merkley said. “Extending this provision to help domestic soda ash manufacturers remain competitive will boost trade, manufacturing and job growth throughout our region.”

Disodium carbonate is a mineral used in the manufacturing of glass, glass products as well as other products exported from the U.S. each year. In 2006, Congress lowered the royalty rate domestic producers paid the government for extracting the mineral from 6 percent to 2 percent. The lower rate resulted in hundreds of millions in increased investment into production capacity and has helped to keep domestic producers competitive. Over that time the industry has grown into more than a $1 billion per year export industry and has brought in tens of millions into the national Treasury. The Soda Ash Competition Act will extend this program for another five years.