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June 09, 2014

C'mon Chamber! - 5 Utilities That Rejected Attacks on Carbon Pollution Safeguards

The much-anticipated safeguards to clean up carbon pollution from existing power plants have finally been announced, and just as expected, both support and opposition for the protections is all over the airwaves.

The Sierra Club has joined other environmental groups, health experts, and elected allies to applaud the announcement. But when it comes to opposition, the usual suspects are fractured.

Even before the Clean Power Plan was proposed, the conservative Chamber of Commerce came out punching with debunked, inaccurate attacks about the plan, claiming we’d see rate hikes and job losses while ignoring the massive economic and public health benefits.

This rhetoric shouldn’t come as a shock, especially since the Chamber, which purports to represent the interests of businesses, has long been funded by some of the country’s biggest and dirtiest polluters and attacked any effort to implement clean air and water safeguards for about as long. Not surprisingly, the coal industry was right alongside the Chamber, quick to push out false claims. In advertisements, the National Mining Association claimed that electric bills would nearly double because of the proposed plan -- a claim found by the Washington Post’s fact checker to be “bogus.”

As for the actual utilities affected by the rule, many aren’t singing the Chamber’s tune and are instead beating back false attacks and welcoming this cornerstone initiative of the President’s Climate Action Plan. Take a look at a sampling of the comments that stand in direct opposition to the Chamber’s doom and gloom:

  • At a Denver Business Journal event, David Eves, CEO of Minneapolis-based utility company Xcel, debunked the Mining Association’s false claims, rejecting the idea that these first-ever carbon standards would increase electric bills upwards of 80 percent.

  • Similarly, the Los Angeles Times reported that Robert Flexon, CEO of Houston-based Dynegy viewed the carbon standards as an opportunity — not a threat.

  • Calpine, another Houston-based utility, came out in full support of the Clean Power Plan on Monday, saying the company serving customers in 20 states and Canada was “ready to meet this challenge head on.”

  • According to the New York Times, FirstEnergy, an electric utility with power plants in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey, also welcomed the news. Anthony Alexander, president and CEO of FirstEnergy, said the utility will be better off.

  • The Edison Electric Institute - a trade group representing investor owned utilities - said it was already on their way to making carbon pollution reductions. Senior Vice President Brian Wolff explained "We're already voluntarily reducing carbon emissions 14% based on 2005 baseline, so optimistically you could say we're headed in the right direction."

In other words, don’t believe the hype.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that utilities have diverged from the Chamber’s outlandish attacks. In 2009, utilities Exelon and PG&E actually left the Chamber of Commerce over its opposition to the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a bill aimed to generate millions of jobs, increase clean energy production, and reduce carbon pollution.

These utilities have it right -- it’s time to clean up and modernize the way we power our homes and businesses. These protections are the first to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants, and they’ll be one of the most significant steps ever taken by any administration to address climate disruption. The Sierra Club will work to ensure these standards are strong, so that everyone -- from utility companies to the communities they serve -- can thrive in a clean energy economy.



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