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Next on tap for US steelmakers -- Infrastructure, EPA, energy regulations: AISI

Tokyo — With the heavy lifting done for steel trade -- Section 232 tariffs and a trilateral US-Mexico-Canada trade pact -- the Washington-based American Iron and Steel Institute intends to stay busy on other legislative and regulatory policy fronts, AISI executives told S&P Global Platts on the sidelines of the World Steel Association General Assembly in Tokyo Monday.

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"We still need an infrastructure bill; that hasn't changed," Thomas Gibson AISI president and CEO said, noting that the sticking point is how to pay for it.

Gibson explained that there is "pretty much a unified view in the business community -- maybe even labor -- that some form of user fee is needed to fund things like the Highway Trust Fund, and I'm hoping that we will see progress on infrastructure."

"I think we'll need another highway bill done by 2020," added Kevin Dempsey, AISI's senior vice president, public policy, and general counsel. He said such a bill is "obviously important for steel and separate and apart from whether or not the president's big infrastructure plan gets done." Either way, Dempsey maintains that "infrastructure will be a major thing that the next Congress has to focus on."

The makeup of the US Congress, however, could be quite different after the midterm elections in the US on November 6.

While the AISI does not take a position on elections, both Gibson and Dempsey emphasize that the outcome of the midterms is unlikely to have any direct impact on steel initiatives. That's because of the Congressional Steel Caucus, a group of some 100 members of Congress who represent districts that make steel, or regions linked to steel sector well-being.

"The Congressional Steel Caucus is very bipartisan, very balanced, and traditionally on steel policy issues and trade we've had very strong support in Congress," Dempsey said. "The [Steel Caucus] leadership --- the chair and co-chair -- have worked together very well. They may switch, but they should continue to work together."

Most important for both Republicans and Democrats "is to keep this economy cooking," Gibson said. "You're seeing wage growth, that drives consumer demand and gets you in a virtuous cycle, and that's where we want to stay."

Outside of Congress, AISI will be vocal on Environmental Protection Agency rules and other agency regulatory matters.

"There are important regulatory actions at EPA," Gibson noted, "On regulations concerning vehicle fuel efficiency, and replacements for the Clean Power Plan -- we plan to have a voice on those."

And Gibson is quick to acknowledge support for what he calls "the energy revolution in this country," acknowledging how "continued growth in both oil and gas production is important for our steel market."

--Joe Innace, joseph.innace@spglobal.com

--Edited by Geetha Narayanasamy, geetha.narayanasamy@spglobal.com

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