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Fact check: The President is protecting the health of Wisconsin families and jobs of paper workers

President Obama has taken significant steps to protect jobs in Wisconsin’s paper industry and strengthen clean air protections so as to prevent thousands of premature deaths caused by harmful pollutants. But the conservative group American Future Fund (AFF) has launched a new, wildly misleading ad—“Paper”—which uses outdated information to falsely claim that the President’s efforts to increase standards for mercury pollution will cost thousands of paper jobs in Wisconsin.

The AFF has a history of concocting ads that “strain the facts,” and are “either flat wrong or greatly exaggerated” in order “to make a misleading point.” Its “Paper” ad is no different. Here are the facts:

  1. The ad deliberately uses out-of-date analysis of an old draft of the rule: The Environmental Protection Agency drafted a proposed rule in 2010 to reduce harmful mercury emissions from boilers and incinerators. After finalizing the rule in February 2011 under a court-ordered deadline, the EPA then worked with the paper industry and Wisconsin leaders directly to revise the initial protections to “achieve extensive public health protections through significant reductions in toxic air pollutants, including mercury and soot, while increasing the rule’s flexibility and addressing compliance concerns raised by industry and labor groups.” The ad is based on an out-of-date analysis of the original draft of the rule that the EPA is no longer seeking to implement. What’s more, the study’s estimates are significantly different than those of the EPA, and reflect what the NRDC’s Chief Economist at its Climate Center, Laurie Johnson, describes as a “gross exaggeration of compliance costs and employment impacts, and a lack of understanding of even introductory-level economics.”

  2. The actual protections will be significantly less costly and focus on less than 1% of all U.S. boilers: The EPA’s revisions to the boiler rule for mercury pollution would cut the cost of implementing the new standards by nearly 50%. The American Forest & Paper Association called the revision “an important step.” And this rule will only cover “less than one% of boilers” for which “the EPA is proposing more targeted emissions limits that protect Americans’ health and provide that industry with practical, cost-effective options to meet the standard—informed by data from these stakeholders.” This administration has also committed to work with any facilities having difficulty with the timing of this pollution standard.

  3. The revised health standards will save thousands of lives and provide important health benefits: The new protections will cut down on toxic pollutants from boilers and incinerators to prevent “up to 8,100 premature deaths, prevent 5,100 heart attacks and avert 52,000 asthma attacks per year in 2015.” Every dollar spent to cut these pollutants will save the public anywhere from $12 to $30 in health benefits.

  4. The President has taken significant action to protect Wisconsin’s paper industry from unfair trade practices: In 2010, the Obama administration cracked down on unfairly underpriced paper products from China and Indonesia, issuing punitive duties to protect jobs in our paper industry. According to the United States International Trade Commission, the U.S. paper industry would’ve seen “even lower employment levels, net sales, operating income, and profitability” if President Obama hadn’t taken action. And this year, the President signed a trade law that preserves our country’s ability to fight unfairly cheap imports that hurt our workers, including those in Wisconsin’s paper industry. Without this law, the U.S. “stood to lose trade leverage that benefits papermakers with mills in Wisconsin.” The only votes against the law came from 39 Republicans.

That AFF would so blatantly distort the facts to launch this attack is not surprising. As The New York Times has noted, AFF has been “spending millions of dollars on ads attacking Democrats across the country” while keeping their donors and their possible motivations “shrouded from the public.” Whatever its intent, the group’s attack completely fails on the facts.