On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to release its ambitious climate rule, one aimed at cutting the carbon pollution emitted by the nation’s fleet of existing fossil fuel-fired power plants. These emissions drive up the health problems that stem from dirty air and fuel climate change and taking action to address them, particularly in light of Congress’ refusal to do the same, is widely being regarded as one of President Obama’s key accomplishments.
But the fight is far from over. While the EPA is required to regulate pollutants under the Clean Air Act, cries of overreach and unfair punishment of the coal industry have begun and will likely intensify as each state determines the best path to achieve the required reductions.
While the rule itself hasn’t even been released, several groups have already begun to attack it, largely the same well-funded entities that have fought any attempt to address global warming for decades.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber didn’t wait for the rule to come out, instead publishing their own speculative report Wednesday. The Chamber found that it would cost American industry $28.1 billion annually to comply with EPA’s new regulations and that as many as 224,000 jobs would be lost between now and 2030. However, as Climate Progress’ Jeff Spross points out, the Chamber’s ‘analysis’ only counts up the negative side of the ledger — failing to account for the economic benefit that will come from cleaning up the air and creating new jobs in the clean energy sector. In its attempt to scare the country about the new plan, the Chamber “fails utterly,” according to Jonathan Chait. The report uses an inflated number for projected electricity demand and bases its analysis off of an ambitious proposal by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), rather than the EPA’s actual proposal, but “even the Chamber’s unrealistically dire number is still low enough that most people would barely notice it,” Chait writes.
The country’s largest business lobby, the Chamber has a long history of opposing action to address climate change. The group lobbied hard against the failed Waxman-Markey climate bill — spending a whopping $17 million in the early months of 2009 alone. The Chamber then created an entire subsidiary organization, the Institute for 21st Century Energy, to promote its view of climate and energy issues. 94 percent of the $32 million the Chamber spent on the 2010 elections went to climate deniers.
In October, the Chamber joined Koch Industries, among others, to officially lobby against the use of the social cost of carbon — a calculation that takes into account all of the negative economic effects of carbon pollution.
The Chamber also helped create the Partnership for a Better Energy Future, a coalition of 76 business groups that has vowed “to be present every step of the way” as the regulations are introduced and enforced.
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
Funded by petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch, along with various corporate and fossil fuel interests, ALEC is a secretive organization designed to pass conservative legislation in states across the country. The group set its sights on attacking clean energy laws in multiple states but failed in every attempt last year. This year, ALEC identified the coming restrictions on coal-fired power plants as a key area of focus and, according to internal documents obtained by the Guardian earlier this month, they have a new strategy. ALEC’s plan for attacking the regulations involves seeking out friendly state attorneys general and encouraging them to sue the EPA, a move reportedly spearheaded by Nebraska attorney general and ALEC member Jon Bruning, who has already filed a lawsuit against the agency.
ALEC has also “targeted a dozen state legislatures, including Kentucky and Ohio, to prevent certain states from implementing EPA carbon rules,” Reuters reported last week. Ohio has already introduced model legislation.
Americans For Prosperity (AFP)
Another Koch-funded organization, AFP reacted to proposed regulations by citing its concern over the impact it would have on low-income Americans. “Using the EPA to drive up electricity prices will have a negative impact on American families, their pocketbooks and their standard of living,” the group said in a 2013 statement. “The President claims to care about jobs and the economy, but his EPA regulations and resulting higher energy bills will hurt the little guy the most, the senior citizen, the single mom on a fixed income.”
AFP, however, has fought against raising the minimum wage, claiming that “it does more harm than good.” Last year they launched a massive campaign pressuring states to deny health care coverage to lower income Americans through the Medicaid expansion contained in the Affordable Care Act.
AFP has worked to protect fossil fuel interests and slander clean energy in multiple states — recently running ads attacking Kansas’ clean energy standard that former Senate President Dave Kerr, (R-Hutchinson) called “provably false” and failing in their attempt to undermine Tea Party support for solar power in Georgia.
American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE)
In March, the group, which represents coal mining companies as well as owners of coal-fired plants like American Electric Power and Southern Co, released a report claiming the EPA’s new rule would kill more than 2.85 million jobs and cause consumers’ electricity bills to rise in 29 states — a prediction even more dire than the Chamber’s. The position is in line with ACCCE’s long history of staunch opposition to any action to reduce carbon pollution. ACCCE has been a top lobbyist on climate change and energy, spending over $20 million since 2008. In 2010, they spent $16.4 million on misleading television ads and in 2012, the group launched a broad-based $40 million messaging and outreach campaign where one ad accused the EPA of attempting to raise electricity prices.
ACCCE’s tactics don’t stop with lobbying. In 2009, the group admitted to hiring a firm to forge letters from civil rights organizations to Congress opposing climate legislation, going as far as to impersonate veterans. While being investigated by Congress, the president and CEO lied under oath, claiming the group never opposed climate legislation. Congressional investigations also discovered the group knew of the fraudulent letters but failed to disclose it until several weeks after a major House vote on climate legislation.
National Mining Association (NMA)
The National Mining Association, which represents large coal companies such as Peabody Coal Co, Arch Coal Inc, Alpha Natural Resources and Cloud Peak Energy Inc., “has spent $1 million on a radio and digital campaign in five states depicting shocked consumers opening expensive electricity bills,” Reuters reported. The advertisements claim that electricity bills will jump by 80 percent as a result of the Obama administration’s proposal to limit carbon pollution from new coal and natural gas plants, something the Washington Post’s Fact Checker recently said was “wholly unsupported” and reliant on “bogus, hyped evidence to make its claim.”
The NMA has spoken out against new coal dust regulations aimed at reducing cases of black lung disease in coal miners, claiming the administration’s long-awaited rule is unnecessary and criticizing multiple studies that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined were sound. The NMA also intervened in a recent court decision to restore a law overturned by the Bush administration designed to keep toxic coal mining spoil from entering sensitive waterways, saying they found the ruling “obviously very disappointing.”
The conservative think tank, which has received funding from the Koch Family Foundations and ExxonMobil, has been staunchly opposed to the EPA’s move to cut carbon emissions since the rules were initially proposed. The group has called on Congress to intervene and stop the EPA (which it does not have the authority to do), citing far-reaching impacts like damage to manufacturing, constituting a “back-door energy tax,” and accomplishing nothing more than raising energy prices and killing jobs “with no noticeable climate impact.”
Heritage has long sought to cast doubt on the scientific consensus behind climate change and oppose cutting greenhouse gas emissions. A 2010 white paper asserts that “the only consensus over the threat of climate change that seems to exist these days is that there is no consensus.” (In reality, 97 percent of scientists agree climate change is happening and human activity is the root cause). The think tank also has a long history of opposing any initiative that might impede fossil fuel corporations. Heritage recently joined Americans for Prosperity and the Chamber of Commerce in supporting a bill that would have prevented the federal government from regulating fracking operations.
A recent study published in the journal Climactic Change found that conservative think tanks like Heritage, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Cato Foundation are among the top recipients of the nearly $1 billion a year that funnels from conservative donors to organizations that oppose limits on carbon pollution.
American Energy Alliance/Institute For Energy Research
The Institute for Energy Research and its political arm, the American Energy Alliance, are both funded in part by the Koch brothers and their donor network and run by Tom Pyle, a former lobbyist for Koch Industries. The group was recently identified as a beneficiary of the Kochs’ vast political network, which raised at least $407 million in the last election alone, according to a recent analysis by the Washington Post and the Center for Responsive Politics. In January, an IER blog post said the plan to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants “will wreak havoc on our largest source of electricity.”
Pyle told the New York Times in February that the group was preparing to attack the proposal with television and radio ads. “That’s going to be a big fight, when they roll out the rule for existing plants,” Pyle said. “We’ll be ready for them.”
AEA has recently been attacking vulnerable Democrats in fossil-fuel friendly states — Rep. Nick Rahall (WV), Sen. Mark Begich (AK) — for supporting a carbon tax, even though they never did. In 2012, the group sought to make the Production Tax Credit for wind energy “so toxic” that Republicans wouldn’t back it.
Tiffany Germain, Senior Researcher with the Center for American Progress Action Fund, contributed to this piece.