Big coal's big-time lobby



Convention-goers in Denver and St. Paul won’t be able to miss the $2 million advertising blitz planned by businesses promoting “clean coal” as key to the nation’s energy future. But chances are, the politicians flying in from the nation’s capital are already well aware of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity’s message. A Center for Public Integrity analysis shows that the newly formed group spent $4.7 million on lobbying so far this year — more than any other organization that described itself in disclosure forms as devoted exclusively to influencing climate change legislation.

ACCCE is made up of 47 companies in the coal business: from the businesses that mine the black diamonds, to the rail companies that haul them, to the electric utilities that burn them. According to the Center’s analysis, 27 of those companies have also done their own climate lobbying separate from the coalition in 2008. Those big companies typically lobby on a range of issues, and aren’t required to disclose how much they spent on each. But the ACCCE members’ total lobbying fees, according to disclosures that listed climate lobbying among their issues, have already topped $43 million in the first two quarters of this year — certainly making them a force to be reckoned with on Capitol Hill.

As for the ACCCE coalition — it was founded this year solely to address the advancing legislation aimed at cutting the emissions of fossil fuels like coal that are blamed for global warming. (It took the place of two other longtime coal advocacy groups, the Center for Energy and Economic Development and Americans for Balanced Energy Choices.) ACCCE’s message is that coal can be a part of the climate change solution, through technology that captures and stores carbon dioxide. But among the group’s first acts was working to stop a bill sponsored by Virginia Republican Senator John Warner and Connecticut Independent Senator Joe Lieberman that sought to put the first nationwide limits on carbon emissions.

Just for point of reference, ACCCE’s lobbying dwarfs that of its rivals in the alternative energy industry. During the first two quarters of 2008, ACCCE spent a whopping five times more than either the American Wind Energy Association ($860,379) or the Solar Energy Industry Association ($655,000). Talk about a big carbon footprint.

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