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Whitehouse: Senate Is Corrupted By Carbon Pollution Cash

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), in a Senate hearing on the EPA budget this 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.

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“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 pollution 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.