Climate Stances Put Pressure on Major Trade Groups

Departures from two coal lobbying firms highlight split between companies and associations.

The Reid-Gardner power generating station near a farm on the Moapa Indian Reservation in Moapa, Nev.
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
Jason Plautz
Add to Briefcase
Jason Plautz
Aug. 29, 2016, 8 p.m.

When it comes to cli­mate change, some com­pan­ies are in­creas­ingly out of step with the ma­jor trade groups rep­res­ent­ing them in Wash­ing­ton, cre­at­ing a polit­ic­al open­ing for greens.

A re­port re­leased this month ex­amined some re­cent mem­ber­ship losses from the Na­tion­al Min­ing As­so­ci­ation and the Amer­ic­an Co­ali­tion for Clean Coal Elec­tri­city, two ma­jor coal trade groups that have been bul­warks in the cam­paign against Pres­id­ent Obama’s cli­mate agenda.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port from the Cli­mate In­vest­ig­a­tions Cen­ter, sev­en of the 12 com­pan­ies that had giv­en AC­CCE more than $1 mil­lion in 2008 have left, in­clud­ing in­dustry gi­ants such as Arch Coal, Con­sol En­ergy, and Amer­en. NMA has seen the exit of com­pan­ies that in­clude Chev­ron, Pa­ci­ficorp, and in­sur­ance gi­ant Zurich in re­cent years.

The reas­ons for the de­par­tures differed, ac­cord­ing to state­ments provided to CIC, but among them was a split over how to ad­dress cli­mate change. Volvo, for ex­ample, pub­licly split with NMA in Decem­ber over the group’s op­pos­i­tion to cli­mate ac­tion, say­ing in a state­ment to Green­peace that NMA’s lob­by­ing was “quite crazy” and the com­pany stood with the U.S.

“Many of these in­di­vidu­al com­pan­ies may not be ex­actly the most help­ful play­ers when it comes to cli­mate policy, but at least they have a more nu­anced po­s­i­tion,” said Joe Smyth, a CIC re­search­er and au­thor of the re­port. “They’re seek­ing to slant or ad­just cli­mate-policy ef­forts to their ad­vant­age. The po­s­i­tion of these lob­by­ing groups doesn’t have a lot of nu­ance. They’re pretty much flatly op­posed.”

Cli­mate-change op­pos­i­tion has emerged as a po­tent ir­re­con­cil­able dif­fer­ence for sev­er­al trade as­so­ci­ations. Apple and Nike both left the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce in 2009 over the group’s op­pos­i­tion to a cli­mate-change bill. A steady trickle of com­pan­ies, in­clud­ing tech gi­ants Mi­crosoft and Google and oil firm Shell, left the Amer­ic­an Le­gis­lat­ive Ex­change Coun­cil, a state-level policy group that had been push­ing anti-cli­mate le­gis­la­tion.

The lines, however, aren’t al­ways clear. Amer­ic­an Elec­tric Power, an Ohio-based util­ity, pub­licly ditched ALEC in Decem­ber, say­ing it was “real­loc­at­ing our re­sources as we fo­cus our work with the states around the Clean Power Plan.” But AEP re­mains a mem­ber of AC­CCE, al­beit at a lower fund­ing level. AEP spokes­wo­man Melissa McHenry told Na­tion­al Journ­al: “We don’t agree with or share every po­s­i­tion that they take, but we con­tin­ue to en­gage with or­gan­iz­a­tions like AC­CCE to ad­voc­ate for cli­mate solu­tions that in­clude coal,” in­clud­ing tech­no­logy to cap­ture car­bon di­ox­ide emis­sions from coal power plants.

The coal groups’ de­par­tures also sig­nal the de­clin­ing power of the in­dustry, which has been crippled by the drop­ping price of nat­ur­al gas. Sev­er­al com­pan­ies lis­ted in the CIC re­port had simply gone bank­rupt (like Arch Coal, which filed for bank­ruptcy in Janu­ary) or were di­ver­si­fy­ing away from coal. Chev­ron Min­ing Inc, a sub­si­di­ary of Chev­ron, left NMA in 2014 after the clos­ure of the Questa Mine that year, the last of the com­pany’s act­ive min­ing op­er­a­tions.

Luke Pop­ovich, a spokes­man for NMA, said that “a couple” of com­pan­ies had left over cli­mate policy, but most of the mem­ber­ship de­par­tures were mar­ket-re­lated.

“This may come as news to CIC and its Green­peace al­lies, but it is nor­mal for trade as­so­ci­ations rep­res­ent­ing di­verse com­pan­ies to lose mem­bers over policy dif­fer­ences and far more of­ten to mar­ket con­di­tions,” Pop­ovich said.

“Of late, we have seen mem­bers leave due to ever-in­creas­ing reg­u­la­tions that are dic­tat­ing mar­ket con­di­tions and their fu­ture plan­ning de­cisions,” said Laura Shee­han, spokes­wo­man for AC­CCE. “For oth­ers, these reg­u­la­tions have had even great­er im­pact, for­cing lay­offs, shut­ter­ing com­munit­ies, and driv­ing them in­to bank­ruptcy.”

En­vir­on­ment­al­ists and Demo­crats have in­creas­ingly tried to turn a spot­light on trade groups as bar­ri­ers to cli­mate ac­tion. In June, eight Sen­ate Demo­crats re­leased a re­port chal­len­ging that the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce did not “ac­cur­ately rep­res­ent the po­s­i­tions, in­put, and know­ledge of its mem­ber­ship” on cli­mate change and to­bacco use, say­ing that nearly half of the Cham­ber’s board-mem­ber com­pan­ies had policies in op­pos­i­tion to the Cham­ber’s po­s­i­tions.

In a June ed­it­or­i­al in For­bes, Sen. Shel­don White­house, one of the Demo­crats on that re­port, even called out com­pan­ies for not lob­by­ing on cli­mate change while trade groups made it a pri­or­ity on the Hill. By stay­ing mem­bers of groups like the Cham­ber of Com­merce and not lob­by­ing on cli­mate change, White­house said com­pan­ies’ ef­fect was a “net neg­at­ive; the lob­by­ing they sup­port ac­tu­ally runs against their stated po­s­i­tions on sus­tain­ab­il­ity and cli­mate.”

AC­CCE and NMA were among the fiercest op­pon­ents of con­gres­sion­al ac­tion on cli­mate change and have been in­volved in leg­al chal­lenges against EPA reg­u­la­tions on power plants. But en­vir­on­ment­al­ists are hope­ful that in­di­vidu­al com­pan­ies—and their more nu­anced cli­mate po­s­i­tions—can start to take primacy in the pub­lic eye.

“In­creas­ingly, com­pan­ies are be­ing held ac­count­able not just for po­s­i­tions they take, but po­s­i­tions they fund and sup­port,” said Kathy Mul­vey, man­ager of the ac­count­ab­il­ity cam­paign at the Uni­on of Con­cerned Sci­ent­ists.

The Amer­ic­an Pet­ro­leum in­sti­tute has even be­gun to ree­valu­ate its stated op­pos­i­tion to a car­bon tax as its mem­ber com­pan­ies seek to ad­apt to new cli­mate policies. Politico re­por­ted in Ju­ly that API was hold­ing a task force on the group’s cli­mate-change mes­sage that could lead to lar­ger policy changes (an API spokes­man offered no up­date on the task force).

“When you see mem­ber­ship drop­ping and pub­lic dis­tan­cing from these po­s­i­tions, as we have with ALEC, then I think these groups will start to see con­sequences,” Mul­vey said. “There will prob­ably be some dis­tinc­tions with these trade as­so­ci­ations and their broad­er agen­das.”

What We're Following See More »
NEW FROM THE STATE DEPARTMENT
24 Individuals Report Health Affects from Attacks in Cuba
9 hours ago
THE LATEST
HUSBAND “AN UNBELIEVABLE HERO”
Listen: Soldier’s Widow Shares Video of Her Call with Trump
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Natasha De Alencar, widow of Army Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, shared a video her daughter took of a phone call she received from President Trump following the death of her husband. "Trump opened by saying how sorry he is about the 'whole situation,' before adding that De Alencar’s husband was 'an unbelievable hero.' ... Later in the call, Trump invited De Alencar to the White House, telling her, 'If you’re around Washington, you come over and see me in the Oval Office.'"

Source:
MANY ARE PUZZLED
Robert Mugabe Appointed WHO Goodwill Ambassador
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The new head of the World Health Organization has named Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe a goodwill ambassador for the agency, a move that has startled public health experts...A number of organizations that attended the" Montevideo conference where the appointment was announced "said in a statement after the announcement that they could not recognize Mugabe as a WHO goodwill ambassador."

Source:
TRUMP’S ATTORNEY WAS SET TO TESTIFY ON WEDNESDAY
Senate Intel Postpones Testimony by Cohen
10 hours ago
THE LATEST
AMENDMENT WOULD HAVE PREVENTED CONSIDERATION
Senate Rejects Effort to Nix SALT Tax Changes
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Senate Democrats on Thursday failed in their first attempt to save the state and local tax deduction, which helps many residents of California and other high-cost states reduce their federal income tax bills. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 52-47 to reject an amendment that would have prevented the Senate from considering any bill that repeals or limits the deduction as part of a planned tax overhaul."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login