Congressman tours industry

Sunday, September 30, 2007
Control Room Operator Kevin Hull describes the workings of the Buzzi Unicem cement plant to Rep. Brad Ellsworth Saturday. The first-term Democrat toured the facility in his second official trip to Putnam County this year.

If Brad Ellsworth didn't know much about the cement business before this weekend, he sure does now.

The Eight District U.S. Congressman toured Buzzi Unicem for nearly two hours Saturday and saw almost every step in the company's cement production process.

Ellsworth visited the Italian company's Greencastle plant, formerly Lone Star, at the invitation of Jinsie Bingham, a Democratic candidate for city council and Putnam County Democratic Party leader. Bingham sits on the company's local advisory board.

U.S. Congressman Brad Ellsworth (fourth from left) poses with local Democratic candidates Saturday outside of part headquarters in Greencastle. In the photograph (from left to right) are: Campaign worker Eric Wolfe, City Council candidate Adam Cohen, City Clerk-Treasurer candidate Teresa Glenn, Mayoral candidate Sue Murray, City Council candidate Jinsie Bingham, Dalton Evans, City Council candidate Russ Evans and Mayor Nancy Michael.

However, Ellsworth said the trip was part of an ongoing effort he's making to get to know the businesses in his district.

The first-term Democrat got up close and personal with Buzzi's facility. After viewing an informational video about the company, he put on a hardhat and safety glasses and saw the entire operation first hand.

Between riding shotgun in a three-story-high dump truck, traveling to the top of the cement plant in a freight elevator and walking the entire length of the processing facility, Ellsworth came out of the tour only a little worse for the wear. His brown shoes were gray with dust and his freshly pressed shirt bore a smudge from wisps of falling cement.

Throughout the tour, plant manager John Cass emphasized the importance of burning alternative fuels in the facility's furnace. By using plastic and corn waste, paint solvents and hazardous materials, Buzzi has been able to reduce its coal use by 40 percent, Cass said. The furnace burns at extreme temperatures, about one third of the heat of the sun.

Ellsworth on several occasions asked whether the federal permits and inspections the plant has to deal with create any problems. Cass and others told Ellsworth that the problem is not with individual agencies, it's that each agency is so narrowly focused that many of them have to be involved for the company to get the correct permits.

Throughout the tour, the former Vanderburgh County Sheriff expressed how particularly impressed he was with the plant's capability to burn alternative fuels to power its furnaces.

After the trip Ellsworth went to lunch at the Putnam Inn, where several Iraq War protesters showed up. He discussed war policy for about 15 minutes.

When questioned about his stance on the Iraq War, the congressman told the BannerGraphic it is clear to him that there is no military solution to the war and that the United States should start drawing down its troops. He also said he stands firm on his position to vote against any measures that would deny funding to American soldiers.

After lunch he visited with several Putnam County Democrats at party headquarters near the Courthouse Square and discussed national issues.

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