Whitehouse: Senate Inaction Influenced by Carbon Polluter Lobbyists

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 13 May 2009 23:29:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), in a Senate hearing on the EPA budget Tuesday morning, decried the extraordinary amount of spending by corporate global warming polluters to lobby Congress. Reading from a report on new lobbying disclosures, Whitehouse noted that carbon polluters such as electric utilities and oil and gas companies have spent nearly $80 million on lobbying just in the first quarter of 2009. Whitehouse concludes:

So if we wonder why the Senate is the last place in America that still doesn’t get it – that climate change is a real problem for people and that carbon pollution is something that people should pay for when they emit it, big utilities, big industry – gee, connect the dots.

Watch it:

“For as long as there’s been pollution,” Sen. Whitehouse explained, “there has been a constant battle with polluters who don’t want to pay the costs of their pollution, either preventing or cleaning it up”:
They’d like to just dump it and have it be somebody else’s problem. There’s absolutely nothing new about that. Polluters don’t want to pay. What’s new is our understanding of what the costs are of carbon pollution. Economic costs, environmental costs, wildlife and habitat costs, and as we’ve recently learned, very significant national security costs.

The E&E News story Whitehouse entered in the Congressional Record explains how carbon-industry lobbyists are vastly outspending environmental groups and clean energy companies:

Thus far in 2009, all environmental groups combined have spent a grand total of $4.7 million on lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Nature Conservancy, which has spent $850,000 thus far, tops the list.

The various renewable energy companies have spent a grand total of $7.5 million, with the biggest spender there being the American Wind Energy Association which has spent just over $1.2 million.

By comparison, Exxon Mobil Corp. alone has spent more than $9.3 million in the first few months of 2009. The company’s lobbying totals exceed any other single corporation or organization except the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent a total of $15.5 million.

The chamber, which has been by far the single biggest lobbying force in Washington over the last decade, has likewise been active in the energy debate this year, though it is unclear from the disclosure records what amount - if any - the organization has spent on lobbying of lawmakers. Its totals are not included in the calculations for any energy-specific industries.

Other heavyweights in the energy sector include: Chevron Corp. at $6.8 million, ConocoPhillips at $6 million, BP at $3.6 million and Marathon Oil at $3.4 million. All four are among the 20 biggest lobbying spenders in any sector in the first few months of 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

As for electric utilities, the biggest single lobbying spender is Southern Co. at $3.7 million, followed by the Edison Electric Institute at $2.6 million, American Electric Power Co. Inc. at $1.7 million and Exelon Corp. at $1.54 million.

Center for Public Integrity: Corporate Interests Dominate Climate Change Lobbying 1

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 26 Feb 2009 15:30:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

The Center for Public Integrity has found that “more than 770 companies and interest groups hired an estimated 2,340 lobbyists to influence federal policy on climate change in the past year,” estimating total expenditures of $90 million. Their comprehensive investigation of climate lobbying discovered that nearly 2,000 of the lobbyists represent corporate interests.

Climate Change Lobbyists
CPI found that the top climate lobbying shop was the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a coal-industry front group that spent $10.5 million lobbying Congress:
No group exemplifies the sophistication of the current debate more than the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity — a new lobbying organization unveiled just weeks before the vote last June on the Warner-Lieberman bill. Representing 48 mining firms, coal-hauling railroads and coal-burning power companies, ACCCE spent $10.5 million lobbying Capitol Hill on climate in 2008 — more than any other organization solely dedicated to the issue. In addition to the group’s president, Steven Miller, a one-time aide to former Democratic Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones, and vice president Joe Lucas, who was an aide to former Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary, ACCCE has at least 15 outside lobbyists, including former White House Counsel Quinn. The big effort is not surprising, since electricity is the largest single source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and the most carbon-intensive fuel, coal, provides half the nation’s power. But ACCCE’s position is that it supports a mandatory federal program to curb the emissions its own members produce—as long as the policy meets ACCCE’s set of principles for keeping electricity affordable, domestically produced, and reliable. And that means encouraging, in ACCCE’s words, “robust utilization of coal.”

Check out the “The Climate Change Lobby” site, including a searchable database of lobbyists and a sampling of top players.

Ten Democratic Senators Voice Industry-Based Concerns With Climate Legislation

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 12 Jun 2008 18:01:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Ten Senators letterTen Senators letter
The ten Democratic signatories: Debbie Stabenow & Carl Levin (MI), Mark Pryor & Blanche Lincoln (AR), Evan Bayh (IN), Sherrod Brown (OH), Jay Rockefeller (WV), Jim Webb (VA), Claire McCaskill (MO), and Ben Nelson (NE). Download the letter.
Ten Democratic senators echoed polluters in a letter sent to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) about her filibustered climate change legislation last Friday. The senators, nine of whom supported cloture to end debate and vote on amendments, wrote, “We commend your leadership in attempting to address one of the most significant threats to this and future generations; however, we cannot support final passage of the Boxer Substitute in its final form.” Their letter continues:
To that point we have laid out the following principles and concerns that must be considered and fully addressed in any final legislation.

The senators’ letter uses practically the same talking points and specific policy demands as the industry polluters who fought to kill the legislation, in particular the industry lobbying groups American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). A review of the letter reveals the Boxer substitute (S. Amdt. 4825 to the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, S. 3036) already made concessions to these parochial and fossil-industry demands:

Point #1: “Contain Costs and Prevent Harm to the U.S. Economy.”

Fossil Ten Senators“While placing a cost on carbon is important, we believe that there must be a balance and a short-term cushion when new technologies may not be available as hoped for or are more expensive than assumed.”
ACCCE“Protect American consumers and the U.S. economy through effective cost-containment measures.”
NAM“Include a safety valve or other equally effective and responsive cost-containment mechanism . . . Support economic growth and do no harm to U.S. economy.”

Commentary: Lieberman-Warner already included a significant “transition assistance” in the form of free permits to polluters [Secs. 541 – 572], borrowing (15 percent of obligation) [Sec. 511] and offset provisions (30 percent of obligation) [Title III], and a “cost containment” auction that would contain the price of seven percent of all allowances sold to polluters [Sec. 522]. A “carbon market efficiency board” is given the authority to loosen restrictions on borrowing and offset use—but not to tighten them [Sec. 521]. What’s left is even greater permit giveaways or “safety valves” that would allow polluters to bust the cap.

Point #2: “Invest Aggressively in New Technologies and Deployment of Existing Technologies.”

Senators“It is critical that we design effective mechanisms to augment and accelerate government-sponsored technology R&D programs and incentives that will motivate rapid deployment of those technologies without picking winners and losers. We also want to include proposals to provide funding for carbon capture and storage and other critical low carbon technologies in advance of resources being available through the auction of emission allowances.”
ACCCE“Guarantee, through public-private sector partnerships, aggressive, near- and long-term investments in new, advanced technologies that 1) avoid or reduce CO2 emissions, 2) capture, transport, and safely store CO2, and 3) use CO2 in beneficial ways, whenever practical.”
NAM“Promote advanced, energy efficient and zero-and-low-GHG emission and sequestration technologies as part of a long-term strategy.”

Truth: The Fossil Ten claim they don’t want to pick “winners and losers” but then call for special support for “carbon capture and storage”—an important but experimental coal industry technology that already received special consideration under the Boxer substitute. In fact, the Boxer substitute called for a special “Kick-Start for Carbon Capture and Sequestration” fund that would go into effect within 120 days, years before emissions reductions would have to take place [Sec. 1005]. Evidently that’s not enough.

Point #3: “Treat States Equitably.”

Senators“The allocation structure of a cap-and-trade bill must be designed to balance these burdens across states and regions and be sufficiently transparent to be understood.”
ACCCE“For example, if a cap-and-trade program were to be implemented, it would be essential to have fair and equitable allocation of emission allowances.”
NAM“Be equitable and economy-wide in scope”

Commentary: Lieberman-Warner reserved three to four percent of allowances for states with high manufacturing and coal mining, in an admittedly complex formula [Sec. 602]. Another one percent of allowances would go to Alaska [Sec. 624], and four to seven percent of allowances to the other 49 states, divied up for coastal states, Indian tribes [Sec. 625], and wildlife restoration [Sec. 631], for adaptation efforts in coordination with the Secretary of the Interior. In addition, significant funding is allocated to American automobile manufacturers [Title XI] and the coal industry [Title X]. Of course, “equitable” and “designed to balance” is in the eye of the beholder.

Point #4: “Protect America’s Working Families.”

Senators“For instance, one way to provide some relief would be to provide additional allowances to utilities whose electricity prices are regulated, which would help to keep electricity prices low.”
American Electric Power Service Corporation“AEP feels strongly that the electric sector should receive emission allowances commensurate with its pro rata share of the emission caps in the legislation, whether emissions are regulated upstream or downstream.”

Commentary: Even though experts agree allowances should be auctioned, Lieberman-Warner already provided such utilities with free allowances – 18 percent of all initial permits given away for free to fossil-fueled electricity generators [Sec. 551]. Furthermore, the bill already had significant assistance provisions for American families: a tax rebate fund that grows from 3.5 percent of permits to 15 percent in 20 years [Sec. 582], 13 percent of allowances reserved for local distribution companies to provide support to low- and middle-income consumers [Sec. 601], and the aforementioned assistance to states.

Point #5: “Protect U.S. Manufacturing Jobs and Strengthen International Competitiveness.”

Senators“The final bill must include enhanced safeguards to ensure a truly equitable and effective global effort that minimizes harm to the U.S. economy and protects American jobs. Furthermore, we must adequately help manufacturers transition to a low carbon economy to maintain domestic jobs and production.”
NAM “Give consideration to industries exposed to foreign competition if a U.S. climate change policy creates competitive disadvantages.”

Commentary: As the senators’ letter recognized, Lieberman-Warner already has a “mechanism to protect U.S. manufacturers from international competitors that do not face the same carbon constraints [Sec. 1306].” And Lieberman-Warner already reserved 11 percent of allowances for the first ten years of the program to be given away for free to carbon-intensive manufacturers [Sec. 541].

Point #6: “Fully Recognize Agriculture and Forestry’s Role.”

Senators“Strong, aggressive and verifiable offset policies can fully utilize the capabilities of our farmers and forests.”
ACCCE“Allow broad use of verifiable actions to offset manmade greenhouse gas emissions. Use of verifiable offsets (from domestic or international action), should be unlimited because they help achieve cost-effective reductions in manmade greenhouse gas emissions. . . Programs such as terrestrial carbon sequestration, conservation, and energy efficiency are important domestic and international tools to reduce the carbon footprint of greenhouse gas emitters.”
Edison Electric Institute (EEI)“Provide for the robust use of a broad range of domestic and international GHG offsets.”

Commentary: Lieberman-Warner already included “strong, aggressive and verifiable” offset policies – 15 percent each for domestic and international projects. Behind the rhetoric of “farmers and forests” lies the reality that the most easily verifiable offsets come from methane emissions from coal mining and industrial agriculture waste ponds – practices that should be dealt with for other safety and health reasons. As the restrictions on offset use are loosened, the regulatory infrastructure needed to verify offsets increases. The pollution industry would like to see offset usage be unlimited, which would require a complex new regulatory bureaucracy that the polluters would oppose tooth and nail.

Point #7: “Clarify Federal/State Authority.”

Senators “Congress should adopt a mandatory federal cap-and-trade program that will be the single regulatory regime for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.”
ACCCE“Avoid a patchwork of conflicting standards or duplicative programs through the adoption of a uniform federal program.”
NAM“Preempt all state climate change laws”
EEI “Provide certainty and a consistent national policy”

Commentary: Lieberman-Warner would distribute four percent of allowances (growing to ten percent by 2032) to states who “show leadership” on reducing emissions—but only those that do not have a conflicting cap-and-trade program. The senators are joining the Bush administration in the attempt to block and preempt state-level regulation of greenhouse gases.

Point #8: “Provide Accountability for Consumer Dollars.”

Senators“The cap and trade program developed in the Lieberman-Warner bill has the potential to raise over $7 trillion. Much of these funds will be indirectly paid for by consumers through increased energy prices. The federal government has a fundamental obligation to ensure these funds are being spent in a responsible and wise manner. The development of any cap and trade program must recognize the sensitivity of this obligation and eliminate all possibility of waste, fraud or abuse.”
American Petroleum Institute “Be transparent and understandable to all consumers and stakeholders.”

Commentary: Considering that these senators are also calling for federal preemption of stronger state regulations, greater subsidies for the coal industry, electric utilities, and manufacturers, and even greater “cost-containment” provisions than those already in Lieberman-Warner, it’s hard to imagine what they consider to be “responsible and wise” spending or the elimination of “waste, fraud or abuse.”

Sen. Boxer’s version of Lieberman-Warner attempted to satisfy these kinds of demands as well as progressive principles espoused by other senators. Download the This letter.

ABEC Campaigning in Ohio

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 29 Feb 2008 16:06:00 GMT

The coal-industry lobbying entity Americans for Better Energy Choices has launched a full campaign in the primary battleground state of Ohio as part of its $40 million-plus election-year PR effort, castigated by a recent NBC report for “trying to cloak itself in green”.

The Ohio effort includes a series of print and radio advertisements, one of which asks:
It’s no secret – access to affordable energy is one of the leading reasons why businesses come to Ohio. In fact, a recent university study shows that there are more than 700,000 jobs here in Ohio because of access to affordable, reliable electricity produced by coal. . . Green collar jobs might sound good to some people, but what does that mean for Ohio jobs … what does it mean for your job?

The “recent university study” is one paid for by ABEC’s parent organization, the industry trade group Center for Energy and Economic Development.

Green Energy Ohio has a series of studies and reports that attempt to answer that very question, looking at both the present and the future impact of the renewable energy/energy efficiency (RE/EE) industry in Ohio.

ABEC Ohio outreach also includes on-site visits to campaign rallies where they give out promotional material and the targeted URL EnergyForOhio.org. A WHOIS review shows that ABEC registered the “EnergyFor” domains for all fifty states in November 2007. DeSmogBlog has posted ABEC’s call for public relations work in Pennsylvania, another significant coal state whose primary is April 22.

The “America’s Power” website (which includes an Ask the Experts section and the “Behind the Plug” blog) lists the ABEC tour locations and the radio spot run in Ohio. Full text of the “jobs” ad, a transcript of the radio spot, and the tour locations are listed after the jump.

Tour schedule
  • February 23 – Columbus
  • February 24 – Columbus, Cincinnatti, Dayton
  • February 26 – Cincinnati – McCain rally
  • February 26 – Lorain, OH – Clinton rally
  • February 26 – Cleveland State University for Democratic Debate
  • February 27 – The Ohio State University – Obama rally
  • February 27 – Zanesville, OH – Clinton Economic Summit
Full text of “jobs” ad:
It’s no secret – access to affordable energy is one of the leading reasons why businesses come to Ohio. In fact, a recent university study shows that there are more than 700,000 jobs here in Ohio because of access to affordable, reliable electricity produced by coal. More than 85 percent of the electricity we use each day in our homes and in our businesses comes from coal, and using coal to generate electricity is one-third the cost of other fuels – which means our state has attracted industry and created jobs for our workers.

So when the candidates talk about changes in energy policies that will result in creating so-called green collar jobs, what will that mean to the jobs we depend on each day here in Ohio? Green collar jobs might sound good to some people, but what does that mean for Ohio jobs … what does it mean for your job?

As the presidential candidates visit our state, we need to make sure they know that using coal to generate electricity is a big plus when it comes to creating jobs for Ohio workers.

Add it up for yourself at energyforohio.org.

Clean Coal. EnergyForOhio.org

Paid for by Americans for Balanced Energy Choices. To learn more visit EnergyForOhio.org or call 877-358-6699.

Radio spot:
OHIO RADIO SPOT: “Straight Talk.”

Straight Talk. You hear the term a lot from the candidates. But are they talking about energy? It’s important to Ohio, because coal is important to Ohio.

here’s some straight talk. Coal generates more than 85% of Ohio’s electricity. And since it’s abundant and affordable, your electric rates have stayed affordable too.

It’s a big reason many businesses come to Ohio, along with thousands of jobs.

What about the environment? Today, America’s coal-based electric plants are 70% cleaner per unit of energy produced. And we’re producing technology to capture and store greenhouse gases.

Coal is the fuel that keeps Ohio working. And any presidential energy plan that doesn’t include it doesn’t make sense here.

Those are the facts. The candidates should know them. For more, visit energyforohio.org.

Clean coal – it’s America’s power.

EPA Admin's GOP Fundraiser Appearance OK'd in Review

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 12 Feb 2008 22:26:00 GMT

The Office of Special Counsel has concluded its investigation into EPA administrator Stephen Johnson’s March 9, 2006 appearance at a fundraiser for Rick O’Donnell, a Republican candidate for Colorado’s 7th District. In its press release, the OSC declared that Johnson did not violate the Hatch Act.

The complaint, filed by Colorado Democratic Party chair Pat Waak, noted that an e-mail by former Colorado health department Doug Benevento had the subject line, “Fundraiser with Administrator of EPA Stephen L. Johnson for Rick O’Donnell,” with an attachment entitled “Fundraiser with Administrator of EPA.”

The act forbids fundraiser invitations that include the federal employee’s official title.

However, the OSC found:
that while Mr. Johnson’s official title was used in an e-mail invitation for the fundraiser, the invitation was sent by an organizer of the event, who was not covered by the Hatch Act. Moreover, as the individual did not consult, or receive approval from the EPA or Mr. Johnson, he was not responsible for the use of his official title in the e-mail used to distribute the invitation.

OSC also found that the EPA staff, in approving Mr. Johnson’s participation in the fundraiser, had not reviewed the list of the attendees, nor informed him of who would be attending the fundraiser, or where they were employed. Therefore, OSC found no evidence that Mr. Johnson had knowingly solicited or discouraged the political activity of persons with business before the EPA.

While Mr. Johnson did not violate the Hatch Act, OSC found deficiencies in EPA staff review processes, and recommended that EPA staff be aware of all parties and their roles in political events, including the attendees, and consider this information when advising on participation. Also, OSC advised EPA staff to review the invitation, along with its cover letter or e-mail, to ensure it complies with the Hatch Act.

Polluters Believe This May Be the Best Year for Climate Legislation

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 17 Jan 2008 16:35:00 GMT

Representatives of the coal, oil, and gas lobby met yesterday at the United States Energy Association’s “State of the Energy Industry” conference at the National Press Club in Washington. They agreed that Lieberman-Warner may be the best legislation they can hope for, especially if issues like polar bear habitat set the standard for legislation.

Katherine Ling reports for E&E Daily that David Parker, president and CEO of the American Gas Association, said “Who would you rather have writing a bill in the Senate? I might guess it may set a tone for business to fully work with the Senate this year.” He continued that “the polar bear habitat is going to really drive this [climate change] debate. We all have a big education job to do and I think we need to do it collectively.”

Bill Scher has further commentary at Blog for Our Future.

E&E Daily:

While most panelists agreed it was not likely that a full bill capping greenhouse gas emissions would pass this session, they said a great deal could be accomplished in laying the groundwork this year.

Tom Kuhn, president and CEO of Edison Electric Institute, predicted there will be a floor vote in the Senate this year on a climate bill. “No matter what happens on those votes, that will set the marker for what we do in the future,” he said, especially if there is White House involvement.

David Parker, president and CEO of the American Gas Association, agreed with Kuhn. Despite a general disagreement the energy industries have with the climate bill sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.), he said, future legislation could be even harder on the industry.

“Warner is retiring this year, and then the question is, ‘Who comes into play?’” Parker said. Potentially, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) – who both favor greater emission limits than those in the Lieberman-Warner bill – could lead the next attempt to pass climate change legislation under a Democratic president, he said.

“Who would you rather have writing a bill in the Senate? I might guess it may set a tone for business to fully work with the Senate this year,” he said.

Achieving workable legislation will require educating policymakers and the public a great deal more on energy markets, panelists said.

Parker said he was worried that “the polar bear habitat is going to really drive this [climate change] debate. We all have a big education job to do and I think we need to do it collectively.”

President Signs Energy Bill; NYT Praises Dingell, Slams Landrieu

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 19 Dec 2007 20:39:00 GMT

From the New York Times Editorial blog:
The Energy Bill: A Hero and a Villain

President Bush has just signed into law an energy bill that could have been even better but still remains an impressive achievement. The long struggle to produce that bill yielded the usual quotient of heroes and villains, but two deserve special mention:

John Dingell, who could have been a villain but chose to be a hero; and Mary Landrieu, who could have been a hero but chose to be a villain.

Mr. Dingell was a most unlikely hero. A Michigan Democrat and a reliable defender of the automobile industry, he had long resisted efforts to mandate new fuel efficiency standards, which had not been updated for more than 30 years.

But there has always been a softer, “greener” side to this crusty octogenarian that people often overlook. An architect of the original Clean Water Act of 1972, he cares a lot about wetlands preservation, endangered species and other environmental causes. He is also a fairly recent convert to the climate change issue, describing the global warming threat with phrases like “Hannibal is at the gates.”

So when Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, made a personal pledge to upgrade fuel efficiency standards, Mr. Dingell agreed, in exchange for one or two modest concessions, to get out of the way. He did more than that. When environmentalists complained that the Senate’s mandate for a huge increase in ethanol could threaten forests, wetlands and conservation areas, Mr. Dingell made sure the final bill contained the necessary safeguards. He also insisted on a provision requiring that ethanol from corn or any other source produce a net benefit in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

Ms. Landrieu was an altogether different story. The Louisiana Democrat broke ranks with her Democratic colleagues and gave President Bush and the Republican leadership the one-vote margin they needed to strike a key provision that would have rescinded about $12 billion in tax breaks for the oil industry and shifted the money to research and development of cleaner sources of energy.

The White House argued that these tax breaks were necessary to insure the oil industry’s economic health and to protect consumers at the pump. Given industry’s $100 billion-per-year profits, these arguments were absurd on their face, but Ms. Landrieu promoted both of them and added one of her own: The energy bill was “one-sided policymaking” that left “Louisiana footing the bill.”

Never mind that the rest of the country is footing the bill for the repair and restoration of Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. That is a just and worthy cause and one that the nation is willing to help pay for. But isn’t reducing oil dependency and global warming emissions by rewarding traditional fossil fuels a bit less, and rewarding newer, cleaner fuels a bit more, also a just and worthy cause? One that Louisiana could help pay for? That is something Ms. Landrieu might ask herself the next time she puts her state’s interest ahead of the nation’s.

NRDC Action Forum Gets NYT Style Treatment

Posted by Brad Johnson Sun, 21 Oct 2007 22:28:00 GMT

New York Times:

When you are the wife of a movie mogul, you can do more than simply complain about the unusual weather that is wreaking havoc with your favorite surf break. Equipped with a Hollywood aura and impeccable social connections — not to mention sheaves of data-filled talking points — you can count on at least 20 minutes’ worth of respectful attention in Washington, with legislators willing to throw open their doors for activists who share the last names of some deep-pocketed donors.

Which is why a team of eco-wives from the entertainment industry descended on Washington last week, hoping to ride a bit of the momentum from Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize in a city that can be unusually receptive to Hollywood celebrity, even if it has been deadlocked over environmental legislation this year.

The Natural Resources Defense Council Action Forum was founded in 2000 by Laurie David and Elizabeth Wiatt, pulling in six other Hollywood wives by 2004. It’s being renamed to the Leadership Council.