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Coal Lobby Isolated by Broad Support for Carbon Standards

Pete Altman

Posted June 5, 2014 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Solving Global Warming

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Support for the President’s Climate Plan and the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to set the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants is pouring in from all over the country, from all kinds of voices.

Not everyone is happy about it, though. Predictably, the coal lobby and its allies are leading the charge against the standards. But their usual allies - the major utility associations and a number of utilities themselves, including some that are heavily reliant on coal, have been much more measured in their response, saying they don’t think the sky is falling, or that they even see merit in the EPA’s efforts and process.

The coal lobby – the National Mining Association and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, and their buddies at the National Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce-basically isolated in their opposition to cleaning up dirty power.

For that matter, the Chamber may once again be getting itself into trouble with its members, as Climate Progress reports that some of the larger corporate members of the US Chamber are distancing themselves from the US Chamber’s opposition to the standards. The Chamber recently issued a pack of false and misleading information – excuse me, a report – about the economic impacts of the EPA’s carbon regulations, which the Washington Post found to be so wrong-headed that it awarded the Chamber 4 Pinnochios –the maximum possible – for its effort.

So on one side, we have the associations that represent our big mining companies like the $7 billion giant Peabody Energy, and their allies.

So who is for the carbon standards?

U.S. Senators so far: Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Harry Reid (D-NV), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Tester (D-MT), Mark Udall (D-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM), John Walsh, (D-MT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden, (D-OR.) Click here for all the statements and source links.

Governors from both coasts and our nation’s heartland are stepping forward in support of the carbon standards, including Governor Abercrombie of Hawaii, Governor Brown of California, Governor Bullock of Montana, Governor Chafee of Rhode Island, Governor Hassan of New Hampshire, Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado, Governor Inslee of Washington, Governor Kitzhaber of Oregon, Governor Markell of Delaware, Governor Malloy of ConnecticutGovernor O’Malley of Maryland, Governor Patrick of Massachusetts, and Governor Shumlin of Vermont.

One group you might have expected to hate on the carbon standards from the outset is utility companies. After all, to hear the National Mining Association’s and the US Chamber’s take on things, you’d think utility companies would be lining up against the standards. But as it turns out, the response from the industry has been much more measured.

The Edison Electric Institute, the association representing all investor-owned utilities, was certainly not hitting the panic button, saying

We're already voluntarily reducing carbon emissions 14% based on 2005 baseline, so optimistically you could say we're headed in the right direction.

Nor did Duke Energy or MidAmerican cry that the sky is falling.

In fact, a number of utilities, including some that rely heavily on coal, sounded rather optimistic:

The Akron Beacon Journal reported that FirstEnergysays it is in good position to deal with first-ever federal carbon limits” and the company told E&E News “It looks positive from our perspective.”

Alliant Energy said “We knew these carbon regulations were coming, so we've been incorporating it into our generation plan. We're at a good starting point.”

Exelon even pointed out the need to reduce carbon pollution, saying

Our goal is to work with EPA to make sure the rule works…There needs to be a pathway towards meaningful reductions.

Entergy, Minnesota Power, Xcel Energy and Florida Power and Light had generally positive responses, and Calpine and National Grid were quite optimistic.

Beyond utilities, there is an impressive array of support from clean energy and small businesses, and Fortune 500 firms and major investors, including Environmental Entrepreneurs, Small Business Majority, the American Sustainable Business Council, CERES/BICEP on behalf of 173 companies, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, Advanced Energy Economy, American Wind Energy Association, Solar Energy Industries Association, and the Business Roundtable.  

Sports and outdoor business groups are also cheering the standards: Protect Our Winters, Snowsports Industries Association and the National Ski Areas Association all weighed in, as did the Green Sports Alliance, an alliance of major sports teams and venues.

Health groups have warmly welcomed the standards as well. The American Lung Association, the American Public Health Association, the National Hispanic Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Thoracic Society all put out supportive statements as well.

Organizations representing the groups most vulnerable to climate change have also weighed in: Voces Verdes, Hip Hop Caucus and Green Latinos and NAACP.

Faith groups that support the carbon standards include the Evangelical Environmental Network, Interfaith Power and Light, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.  

And the list goes on. The BlueGreen Alliance, made up of 14 labor and environmental groups, has weighed in. Public Citizen, Alliance for Affordable Energy,  Alliance to Save Energy, Moms Clean Air Force, WRI, League of Women Voters, the Center for Rural Affairs and Green for All support the standards.

And of course, an inclusive list of environmental groups environmental groups at the national, state and local levels: 350.org, Clean Water Action,  The Climate Reality Project,  Earthjustice,  EDF,  Environmental Law and Policy Center,  Environment America,  EESI,  Friends of the Earth,  LCV,  NWF, NRDC,  RAN,  Sierra Club, WWF,  Appalachian Voices, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Climate Solutions

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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