Bill Would Require American Steel for State Public Works Projects

By KBJR News 1

March 8, 2013 Updated Mar 8, 2013 at 11:42 PM CDT

Hibbing, MN (NNCNOW.com) - A bill circulating in the Minnesota legislature could mean an increase in production for Iron Range taconite mines.

The bill would require that all public works projects in Minnesota be made with American-made steel.

"The purpose of the bill is to make sure that taxpayer money is creating jobs domestically rather than overseas," said Representative Carly Melin (DFL - Hibbing), the bill's author.

According to the Iron Mining Association, 80-percent of the steel made in the U.S. comes from the Iron Range. An increase in American-made steel could mean an increase in Iron Range jobs.

"It's our tax dollars going to support U.S., American jobs and particularly [jobs] here on the Iron Range," said Sub-District Director for United Steelworkers District 11, John Rebrovich.

Rebrovich says that USW District 11 and the Iron Ore Alliance, a recently formed joint initiative between USW and U.S. Steel to promote the industry, support the legislation.

According to the Iron Mining Association, one of the biggest competitors of American steel is China, which sells steel significantly cheaper than the United States.

"It's [steel] coming in for cheaper because they [China] don't have environmental standards, they don't have labor standards," said Rep. Melin of why other countries are able to sell their steel at prices lower than the United States.

"There's steel dumping going on by other countries into the United States and we need to be able to balance some of that out," said Iron Mining Association President, Craig Pagel, who supports the legislation.

Pagel says that after World War Two iron ore production in the U.S. was on par with that of China. Now, he says U.S. production is around 70 million tons per year while China's is more than 700 million.

It's a reason Pagel says that the legislation would be helpful.

"It's cheaper to bring in something to the United States, such as steel from China," said Pagel, "This is one more message, it's one more step – this is Minnesota kind of doing its part."

Exceptions to the bill are if American steel isn't available in enough quantity to meet the requirements of a project, or if using American steel would cost upwards of fifteen percent more than another country's steel.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.