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Chamber Under Fire on Warming

By Lisa Lerer
Politico.com
May 5, 2009


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is taking heat from Johnson
& Johnson, Nike and other corporate members over its
opposition to global warming legislation pending in the
House.

In a letter to the Chamber, Johnson & Johnson has asked
the Chamber to refrain from making comments on climate
change unless they “reflect the full range of views,
especially those of Chamber members advocating for
congressional action.”

Nike spokeswoman Anne Meyers said her company has also
been “vocal” with the Chamber’s leaders “about wanting
them to take a more progressive stance on the issue of
climate change.”

While the Chamber’s opposition to cap-and-trade
legislation introduced by House Democrats mirrors the
views of some in industry, particularly energy
producers, Meyer said Nike “didn’t feel that consumer
companies had a particularly strong or vocal voice
around the issue of climate change.”

Lobbyists at business coalitions that support federal
climate change legislation say other companies are
discussing the possibility of sending their own letters
to the Chamber — or of threatening to withhold dues from
the Chamber in protest.

But William Kovacs, the Chamber’s vice president for the
environment, technology and regulatory affairs,
downplayed the divide within the nation’s most powerful
lobbying group.

“We deal with 300 to 400 issues a year, and there are
times when members would disagree,” he said. “But on 95
percent of the issues, we have 95 percent of the
support.”

While some energy producers and manufacturers oppose any
federal action to cap carbon dioxide emissions, at least
35 major corporations — including Johnson & Johnson and
Nike — have joined coalitions designed to push federal
climate change legislation.

The Chamber has not taken an explicit position against
all federal climate change regulation, but it has
opposed the most significant proposals introduced in
Congress.

The business lobby has come out strongly against a draft
bill in the House that would create a cap-and-trade
system to cut greenhouse gases and promote the
development of renewable energy technology.

In the House Energy and Commerce committee last month,
Kovacs said the legislation would “result in energy
shortages and high energy prices, which in turn means
higher prices for just about everything else.”

And last week, the Chamber released a study showing that
the bill could result in more than 3 million jobs lost
by 2030 and a cost of more than $2,100 per household.

The Chamber also opposed a cap-and-trade proposal
introduced by former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) and Sen.
Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) during the past session of
Congress.

Environmental advocates say the positions the Chamber
has taken put it out of sync with many of its members.

“Based on the public statements from the other members
of the Chamber, Johnson & Johnson is certainly not alone
in having a different position from the Chamber,” said
Peter Altman, climate campaign director for the Natural
Resources Defense Council.

According to Altman’s analysis, 99 of the 122 companies
represented on the Chamber’s board have taken no public
position on global warming. Nineteen support regulation,
while four oppose regulation or disagree with the
science behind it.

“The U.S. Chamber is representing the views of a small
minority of its board members,” said Altman.

Chamber lobbyists say that the group’s positions are
determined by its members, which are organized into 16
policy groups and five taskforces.

Kovacs said the Johnson & Johnson letter came the day
the Chamber’s environment and energy committee was
meeting. The group of more than 100 members debated cap
and trade, the carbon tax and the use of technology for
nearly three hours, he said.

“At the end of the debate, there were no members asking
to change our policy,” he said.

The draft version of the House climate change
legislation incorporated proposals suggested by the
United States Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of
business and environmental groups that supports capping
emissions. The Business for Innovative Climate and
Energy Policy, a group of consumer companies, also backs
the House bill.

 

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