Rep. Cantor Distorts EPA Regulations And NLRB Enforcement In Dishonest Op-Ed

August 23, 2011 2:56 pm ET

In a Washington Post op-ed, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) argues that President Obama's "anti-business, hyper-regulatory" agenda contributed to the downgrade in America's credit rating by stifling economic growth and exacerbating the debt problem. To support his case, Cantor cites three specific examples of allegedly regulation run amok: the Environmental Protection Agency's "Transport Rule," new standards for cement manufacturing, and the recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board to bring a case against Boeing's decision to move its plant to South Carolina from Washington state. Predictably, Cantor misleads on all three examples. Furthermore, Standard & Poor's based its downgrade decision largely on "political brinksmanship" by congressional Republicans, led by Cantor, who threatened to let the nation default on its debt.

CLAIM: Cantor Claims The EPA's Transport Rule Will Hurt Employment

Rep. Cantor Claims The EPA's Transport Rule "Could Eliminate Thousands Of Jobs." According to Cantor's op-ed in the Washington Post:

There is no other conclusion for policies such as the new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, including the "Transport Rule," which could eliminate thousands of jobs, or the ozone regulation that would cost upward of $1 trillion and millions of jobs in the construction industry over the next decade. [Washington Post, 8/21/11]

FACT: The Transport Rule Will Create Jobs

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, Or "Transport Rule," Would Require States To Improve Air Quality By Reducing Emissions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency: "On July 6, 2011, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule that protects the health of millions of Americans by helping states reduce air pollution and attain clean air standards. This rule, known as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), requires 27 states to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that contribute to ozone and/or fine particle pollution in other states." [EPA.gov, accessed 8/22/11]

The Transport Rule, Along With Another Clean Air Act Regulation, Would Create 1.46 Million Jobs Over Five Years. According to a study by the University of Massachusetts' Political Economy Research Institute:

Focusing on 36 states in the eastern half of the United States, this report evaluates the employment impacts of the electric sector's transformation to a cleaner, modern fleet through investment in pollution controls and new generation capacity and through retirement of older, less efficient generating facilities. In particular, we assess the impacts from two CAA regulations expected to be issued in 2011: the Clean Air Transport Rule ("Transport Rule") governing sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from targeted states in the eastern half of the U.S.; and the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Utility Boilers ("Utility MACT") rule which will, for the first time, set federal limits for hazardous air pollutants such as mercury, lead, dioxin, and arsenic. [...]

Applying stringent EPA compliance requirements, including an assumption that the Utility MACT rule will require pollution controls on all coal-fired power plants by 2015, that study projected that between 2010 and 2015 the power sector will invest almost $200 billion on capital improvements, including almost $94 billion on pollution controls and over $100 billion on about 68,000 megawatts of new generation capacity. Constructing such new capacity and installing pollution controls will create a wide array of skilled, high-paying jobs, including engineers, project managers, electricians, boilermakers, pipefitters, millwrights and iron workers.

Key findings:

  • As detailed in Table ES.1 below, between 2010 and 2015, these capital investments in pollution controls and new generation will create an estimated 1.46 million jobs or about 291,577 year-round jobs on average for each of those five years.

[Ceres.org, February 2011, emphasis original, internal citations removed]

FACT: The Transport Rule's Public Health Benefits Will Save Lives And Money

The Transport Rule Will "Achiev[e] Hundreds Of Billions Of Dollars In Public Health Benefits." According to the Environmental Protection Agency:

The CSAPR will help avoid tens of thousands of premature deaths and illnesses, achieving hundreds of billions of dollars in public health benefits. [EPA.gov, accessed 8/22/11]

Each Year, The Transport Rule Will Create An Estimated Economic Benefit Of $120 Billion To $290 Billion. According to a Congressional Research Service study: "EPA's major clean air initiative under the Bush Administration, the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), was vacated and remanded to the agency by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2008. EPA proposed a replacement for the rule, which it is calling the Clean Air Transport Rule, August 2, 2010, and expects to finalize the rule in June 2011. The original rule, designed to control emissions of air pollution that causes air quality problems in downwind states, established cap-and-trade programs for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from coal-fired electric power plants in 28 Eastern states, at an estimated annual cost of $6.1 billion in 2020. Benefits were estimated to be at least $120 billion annually, with an annual 22,000 premature deaths avoided. The replacement rule proposed in July 2010 applies to 31 states; its annual cost is estimated at $2.2 billion, with benefits of $120 billion to $290 billion annually." [FAS.org, 3/21/11]

The Transport Rule "Could Save Between 14,000 And 36,000 Lives Every Year." According to the American Public Health Association: "Intended to reduce exposure to harmful levels of ozone and air pollution, EPA's transport rule would place stricter limits on sulfur, nitrogen and toxic emissions that travel across state lines and jeopardize the health of millions of people, particularly seniors, children and those with chronic lung and cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. According to EPA, today's air quality improvement ruling could save between 14,000 and 36,000 lives every year from averted heart attacks, strokes and respiratory illnesses." [APHA.org, 7/7/11]

CLAIM: Rep. Cantor Claims Cement Manufacturing Standards Will "Affect Nearly 100 Cement Plants, Setting Over-The-Top Requirements Resulting In Increased Costs"

Rep. Cantor Claims Cement MACT Standards Will Cause Increased Costs. According to Rep. Cantor's op-ed in the Washington Post:

The administration's new maximum achievable control technology standards for cement are expected to affect nearly 100 cement plants, setting over-the-top requirements resulting in increased costs and possibly thousands of jobs being offshored. [Washington Post, 8/21/11]

FACT: The Cement MACT Will Yield Economic Benefits Of "$6.7 Billion To $18 Billion Annually"

The Maximum Achievable Control Technology Standards For Cement Will Force Portland Cement Manufacturing Plants To Cut Emissions. According to a Congressional Research Service report: "On September 9, 2010, EPA promulgated New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for conventional pollutants from new cement kilns and Maximum Achievable Control Technology standards for hazardous air pollutants from both existing and new sources in the Portland cement manufacturing industry. When fully implemented in 2013, the standards will require a 92% reduction in emissions of both particulate matter and mercury and a 97% reduction in emissions of acid gases, according to EPA, as well as controlling other pollutants." [FAS.org, 3/21/11]

EPA Estimates That Cement MACT Benefits "Will Be Worth $6.7 Billion To $18 Billion Annually." According to a Congressional Research Service report: "The agency estimates that it will cost the industry $350 million annually to comply with the standards, but that benefits (including the avoidance of 960 to 2,500 premature deaths in people with heart disease) will be worth $6.7 billion to $18 billion annually." [FAS.org, 3/21/11]

CLAIM: Rep. Cantor Claims "President's Silence" As NLRB "Seeks To Prevent Boeing From Opening A Plant" Contributed To Credit Downgrade

Rep. Cantor Claims That The NLRB Is Stopping Boeing From Opening A Plant In South Carolina. According to Rep. Cantor's op-ed in the Washington Post:

There is the president's silence as the National Labor Relations Board seeks to prevent Boeing from opening a plant in South Carolina that would create thousands of jobs. Such behavior, coupled with the president's insistence on raising the top tax rate paid by individuals and small businesses, has resulted in a lag in growth that has added to the debt crisis, contributing to our nation's credit downgrade. [Washington Post, 8/21/11]

FACT: The NLRB Is Only Seeking To Ensure That Boeing Is Not Making Discriminatory Decisions

Boeing Allegedly Decided To Move Production To South Carolina To Retaliate Against Workers' Past Strikes And Avoid Future Strikes. According to the New York Times:

In its complaint, the labor board said that Boeing's decision to transfer a second production line for its new 787 Dreamliner passenger plane to South Carolina was motivated by an unlawful desire to retaliate against union workers for their past strikes in Washington and to discourage future strikes. The agency's acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, said it was illegal for companies to take actions in retaliation against workers for exercising the right to strike.

Although manufacturers have long moved plants to nonunion states, the board noted that Boeing officials had, in internal documents and news interviews, specifically cited the strikes and potential future strikes as a reason for their 2009 decision to expand in South Carolina. [New York Times, 4/20/11]

Labor Laws Prohibit Companies From Retaliating Against Workers For Striking. From Media Matters: "In a telephone interview with Media Matters, University of California-Irvine Chancellor's Professor of Law Catherine Fisk said that if the NLRB general counsel's complaint is true, this is an 'absolutely standard violation of Section 8(a)(1) [of the National Labor Relations Act], which has been in the statute since 1935 and prohibits retaliation against employees for protected activities' such as forming a union, engaging in collective bargaining, and striking. Fisk also said that she saw 'nothing controversial' about the complaint." [Media Matters, 5/14/11]

NLRB's Complaint "Does Not Seek To Have The South Carolina Facility Closed." According to the National Labor Relations Board: "Several news outlets have erroneously reported in recent days that the National Labor Relations Board has ordered the Boeing Company to close its operations in South Carolina. ... In fact, the complaint issued on April 20 by the Acting General Counsel does not seek to have the South Carolina facility closed. It seeks to halt the transfer of a specific piece of production work due to allegations that the transfer was unlawfully motivated. The complaint explicitly states that Boeing may place work where it likes, including at its South Carolina facility, as long as the decision is not made for discriminatory reasons." [NLRB.gov, 4/26/11, emphasis added]

NLRB Complaint "Does Not Seek To Prohibit" Boeing "From Making Non-Discriminatory Decisions With Respect To Where Work Will Be Performed." From the complaint filed by National Labor Relations Board against Boeing:

(a) As part of the remedy for the unfair labor practices alleged above in paragraphs 7 and 8, the Acting General Counsel seeks an Order requiring Respondent to have the Unit operate its second line of 787 Dreamliner aircraft assembly production in the State of Washington, utilizing supply lines maintained by the Unit in the Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, area facilities.

(b) Other than as set forth in paragraph 13(a) above, the relief requested by the Acting General Counsel does not seek to prohibit Respondent from making non-discriminatory decisions with respect to where work will be performed, including non-discriminatory decisions with respect to work at its North Charleston, South Carolina, facility. [National Labor Relations Board Complaint and Notice of Hearing4/20/11, via Scribd.com]

WH Press Secretary: "We Do Not Get Involved In Particular Enforcement Matters Of Independent Agencies." According to a May 11, 2011, press briefing with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney:

Q    Boeing CEO Jim McNerney, who chairs the President's Export Council, said the National Labor Relations Board suit against his company for building a plant in a right-to-work state is a fundamental assault on capitalism.  I'm wondering is the President aware of the issue, and does he think the government should be involved in how businesses allocate capital or resources?

MR. CARNEY: Well, it's obviously been in the news, so we are aware of it, but I would refer any questions about it to the NLRB because it is an independent agency, and we do not get involved in particular enforcement matters of independent agencies.

Q    The President has weighed in on outside issues before, though. I mean is this something -- it's also coming from someone who is chairing the Export Council, who's saying this is hurting job creation.

MR. CARNEY: I don't have a reaction to this from the President. And I think the fact that he's weighed in on outside issues doesn't mean that he will weigh in on an independent agency's enforcement action. [WhiteHouse.gov, 5/11/11, emphasis added]

FACT: S&P Downgraded U.S. Credit Rating Because Of GOP Brinksmanship

S&P: "We Lowered Our Long-Term Rating" Because Of "The Prolonged Controversy Over Raising The Statutory Debt Ceiling." From Standard & Poor's: "We lowered our long-term rating on the U.S. because we believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed and will remain a contentious and fitful process. [...]The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy." [Standard & Poor's, 8/5/11, emphasis added]

National Journal: "It's Hard To Read The S&P Analysis As Anything Other Than A Blast At Republicans." From the National Journal: "To be sure, S&P didn't specifically single out Republicans. It criticized the overall $2.4 trillion deal as too limited, and it implicitly criticized both political parties for refusing to tackle their sacred cows - entitlements, in the case of Democrats; tax increases in the case of Republicans. But it's hard to read the S&P analysis as anything other than a blast at Republicans.  In denouncing the threat of default as a 'bargaining chip,' the agency was saying that the GOP strategy had shaken its confidence.  Though S&P didn't mention it, the agency must have been unnerved by the number of Republicans who insisted that it would be fine to blow through the debt ceiling and provoke a default." [National Journal8/6/11, emphasis added]

  • Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell Has Openly Celebrated Republicans' Use Of Debt Ceiling For Political "Hostage." As reported by theWashington Post: "But at the Capitol, behind the four doors and the three receptionists and the police guard, McConnell said he could imagine doing this again. 'I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting,' he said. 'Most of us didn't think that. What we did learn is this - it's a hostage that's worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done.'" [Washington Post8/2/11, emphasis added]

S&P's "Rationale" Section Cites Failure Of Long Public Debate To Produce Comprehensive Plan That Includes New Revenues. From the "Rationale" section of the Standard & Poor's report: "Despite this year's wide-ranging debate, in our view, the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge, and, as we see it, the resulting agreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program that some proponents had envisaged until quite recently. Republicans and Democrats have only been able to agree to relatively modest savings on discretionary spending while delegating to the Select Committee decisions on more comprehensive measures. It appears that for now, new revenues have dropped down on the menu of policy options. In addition, the plan envisions only minor policy changes on Medicare and little change in other entitlements, the containment of which we and most other independent observers regard as key to long-term fiscal sustainability." [Standard & Poor's, 8/5/11, emphasis added]

S&P: Republican Intransigence On Taxes Makes Permanent Extension Of Bush Tax Cuts More Likely, Which Would Be "Consistent With" Downgraded Rating. From Standard & Poor's: "Under our revised base case fiscal scenario--which we consider to be consistent with a 'AA+' long-term rating and a negative outlook--we now project that net general government debt would rise from an estimated 74% of GDP by the end of 2011 to 79% in 2015 and 85% by 2021. Even the projected 2015 ratio of sovereign indebtedness is high in relation to those of peer credits and, as noted, would continue to rise under the act's revised policy settings. Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act." [Standard & Poor's, 8/5/11, emphasis added]

National Journal: Downgrade Based "On The Political Game Of Chicken...That Republicans Initiated And Pushed To The Limit." From the National Journal: "The big new element on Friday was an official outside recognition that U.S. creditworthiness is being undermined by a new factor: political insanity. S&P didn't base its downgrade on a change in the U.S. fiscal and economic outlook. It based it on the political game of chicken over the debt ceiling, a game that Republicans initiated and pushed to the limit, and on a growing gloom about the partisan deadlock.  Part of S&P's gloom, moreover, stemmed explicitly from what a new assessment of the GOP's ability to block any and all tax increases. S&P was remarkably blunt that its downgrade was mostly about heightened political risks:  'The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed,' it said." [National Journal8/6/11, emphasis added]

Read more about Rep. Cantor's misrepresentation of the S&P downgrade HERE and HERE.

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