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Chamber Of Commerce Continues Decades-Long Assault Against Clean Economy

By Brad Johnson  

"Chamber Of Commerce Continues Decades-Long Assault Against Clean Economy"

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19th Century InstituteAt a Washington DC press conference, U.S. Chamber of Commerce officials blasted President Obama’s call for a clean energy future. Christopher Guith, vice president for policy at the Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, said a national clean-energy standard is “ridiculously premature,” even though 25 states have renewable and alternative energy standards, the first established in 1983. The Institute’s president, former Bush official Karen Harbert, said that the United States should instead allow “increased access to land for oil and gas drilling both onshore and offshore,” drilling a deeper hole with fossil fuel dependence.

This opposition to clean-energy job creation on behalf of big oil is nothing new for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Throughout the 2000s, the chamber led the opposition to action on climate change, promoting global warming denial. Its history of defending pollution at the expense of the health of the American public and American jobs, however, goes deeper:

1999: Chamber of Commerce opposes reinstating Superfund taxes on toxic polluters. In a letter earlier this month to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, two large pro-business groups urged Congress not to reinstate the taxes. “Raising taxes on industry runs directly counter to congressional efforts to reduce taxes,” said the top officials at the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. [National Journal, 10/19/99]

1997: Chamber of Commerce fights stronger smog and soot standards. The Chamber questioned the scientific studies used by the EPA to justify the tougher health standards, arguing that more research should be done before businesses are burden with standards that will require new and expensive additional pollution controls. [AP, 5/28/97]

1993: Chamber of Commerce opposes trade sanctions in NAFTA for failure to enforce environmental laws. “Authority to impose sanctions against private interests in any of the three countries should remain with the individual governments, and not be ceded to some supranational body not accountable to voters,” said Willard Workman, vice president, international, of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. [Journal of Commerce, 4/13/93]

1992: Chamber of Commerce opposes binding global warming treaty. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned that it would block any attempts to include binding commitments to reduce gases related to global warming. [Greenwire, 9/16/92]

1990: Chamber of Commerce attacks Clean Air Act revision. The Chamber said that the proposed legislation would ”vastly increase the cost and complexity” of environmental regulations – perhaps costing U.S. industry $20 billion more a year. The Chamber of Commerce particularly objected to provisions of the Clean Air bill that would tighten pollution controls related to motor vehicles, smog, coal and toxic chemicals. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/23/90]

1988: Chamber of Commerce criticizes call for action on global warming as a “scare statement.” The Chamber’s Harvey Alter called the ”Blueprint for the Environment”’ prepared by 30 environmental groups full of ‘broad scare statements,” including: that ”…global warming threatens to devastate the world, but no timeframe is mentioned. Depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer will damage agriculture and marine life and cause an epidemic of skin cancer, but no mention of the remedial actions now in place is made.” [Inside Energy, 12/19/88]

1984: Chamber of Commerce opposes hazardous waste dumping ban. Harvey Alter, manager of the natural resources office at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argued a ban on the dumping of wastes containing dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls, heavy metals, halogenated organic compounds and cyanides would only “promote illegal dumping”. [Chemical Week, 8/8/84]

1982: Chamber of Commerce petitions to weaken Clean Air Act, claiming it kills jobs. “Obviously, the Clean Air Act needs to be changed,” said Dr. Harvey Alter, manager of the chamber’s resources and environmental quality department. “The construction ban has no place in this country. It is an inherently unfair punishment of communities and does not clean the air.” [Associated Press, 7/15/82]

1981: Chamber of Commerce compiles secret hit list of federal employees for Reagan. In 1981, the Chamber compiled a ”hit list” of 18 government employees it urged the Reagan White House to dump from their jobs, including 10 EPA officials; Anthony Roisman, former chief of the Justice Department’s hazardous waste section; a half dozen Labor Department employes, and Maxine Savitz, deputy assistant energy secretary. [UPI, 9/6/84]

Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.

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