09.18.15

Senators Ask U.S. Chamber of Commerce Board Member Companies About The Chamber's Climate Denial Efforts

WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, Sept. 18, 2015) -- Today, United States Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Al Franken (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Ed Markey (D-MA) sent letters to the CEOs of all 108 member companies of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Board of Directors asking about their positions on the Chamber’s efforts to undermine the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan.  The letters also ask about the Chamber's processes for informing the board member representatives and obtaining their approval for opposing efforts to address climate change.

Last month, The New York Times reported that “a group of about 30 corporate lawyers, coal lobbyists and Republican political strategists” had been meeting since early 2014 “in the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce… Their task was to start devising a legal strategy for dismantling the climate change regulations they feared were coming from President Obama.”

In today’s letter, the Senators note the Chamber’s long history of blocking action on climate change in order to protect polluting industries.  “The Chamber has long opposed action to prevent climate change,” they write.  “It supports political leaders who are among the most extreme climate change deniers, and Chamber officials have failed to acknowledge the scientific reality of human-caused climate change in congressional testimony.  The Chamber claims it supports reducing CO2 emissions and that to ‘make further progress, we should be guided by what has already worked: gains in efficiency, new technologies, and the increased use of natural gas and renewable fuels.’  EPA’s Clean Power Plan allows states to use all of these tools, yet the Chamber does not support this plan, and has not presented or supported any alternative to the Clean Power Plan that would result in equivalent or greater emissions reductions.  The strategy of the Chamber on climate change amounts to little more than denial and delay.”

This letter comes on the heels of a similar effort led by Sens. Whitehouse and Warren in July regarding the Chamber’s international effort to fight against anti-smoking laws on behalf of the tobacco industry.  The two campaigns together, the Senators write today, “show that while the U.S. Chamber positions itself as the voice of all American businesses, in reality, it acts as a partisan enforcer for industries whose activities threaten public health and undermine the public well-being.” 

The full text of today’s letter is below and the list of recipients is available here

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Dear CEO:

Recently, the New York Times reported that the United States Chamber of Commerce (“the Chamber”) has campaigned aggressively to repeal anti-smoking laws overseas.  Now, another report in the same paper shows that the Chamber is leading efforts to undermine new EPA standards to address carbon pollution and climate change.  These stories show that while the U.S. Chamber positions itself as the voice of all American businesses, in reality, it acts as a partisan enforcer for industries whose activities threaten public health and undermine the public well-being.

According to the New York Times, the Chamber is at the heart of a campaign to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon pollution standards for existing power plants – the recently finalized Clean Power Plan – which will reduce carbon emissions, protect public health, and establish American leadership in the global fight against climate change.                                                                                                                                  

Early last year, the Chamber began hosting regular meetings of “a group of about 30 corporate lawyers, coal lobbyists and Republican political strategists” to “start devising a strategy for dismantling the climate change regulations” before EPA had even issued a proposal.  The New York Times reports that the Chamber-hosted effort has since “expanded into a vast network of lawyers and lobbyists” committed to challenging the Administration’s climate policy “at every opportunity.”

The Chamber has long opposed action to prevent climate change.  It supports political leaders who are among the most extreme climate change deniers, and Chamber officials have failed to acknowledge the scientific reality of human-caused climate change in congressional testimony.  The Chamber claims it supports reducing CO2 emissions and that to “make further progress, we should be guided by what has already worked: gains in efficiency, new technologies, and the increased use of natural gas and renewable fuels.”  EPA’s Clean Power Plan allows states to use all of these tools, yet the Chamber does not support this plan, and has not presented or supported any alternative to the Clean Power Plan that would result in equivalent or greater emissions reductions.  The strategy of the Chamber on climate change amounts to little more than denial and delay.

We are writing to you to ensure that you fully understand the Chamber’s role in the campaign to undermine U.S. action and leadership on climate change, and to give you an opportunity to clarify where your company stands on this issue.  We request a response from you within three weeks regarding the following questions:

1)      What is your company’s position on the U.S. Chamber’s effort to legally challenge or otherwise undermine the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan?

2)      Did your company’s representatives on the U.S. Chamber’s Board of Directors receive information that describes this campaign and the activities of the U.S. Chamber in support of this effort?

3)      Did the U.S. Chamber have a process for your company’s representative to provide approval for the activities described in the New York Times article or provide an opportunity to express your company’s views on these activities?

4)      Has your company informed its (1) board of directors and (2) stockholders of the actions of the U.S. Chamber against climate action, and your company’s position on those actions?

Sincerely,

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