Duke Leaves Coal Group Over Anti-Climate Bill Stance

Duke Leaves Coal Group Over Anti-Climate Bill Stance

Citing a rift with other member companies hostile to U.S. climate change legislation, Duke Energy left a business coalition linked to a recent scandal over forged letters sent to members of Congress opposing the Waxman-Markey climate change bill.

Duke reportedly severed ties with the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy (ACCCE) on Tuesday, four months after leaving the National Association of Manufacturers in part because of its efforts fighting the Waxman-Markey legislation. 

ACCCE was recently swept into a firestorm because a public relations firm hired on its behalf sent fake letters to members of Congress opposing the Waxman-Markey bill, purporting to be from community groups such as the NAACP. The group is also organizing a “Citizen Army” of volunteers to show up at events attended by Congressmen and steer conversations toward energy policy.{related_content}
The move comes as the climate change debate heats up in the Senate, which is scheduled to take up the matter later this month following the Waxman-Markey bill’s narrow passage in the House of Representatives in June. The legislation calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and by 83 percent by 2050, largely through a cap-and-trade program.

Jim Rogers, Duke’s president and CEO (pictured above), remains on the board of directors of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, another business group working to defeat the Waxman-Markey bill. But the trade association has heard from other members critical of its anti-climate legislation stance, such as Johnson and Johnson and Nike. The Chamber also appeared to backpedal on its recent calls to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a modern day public trial on climate change science, similar to the infamous Scopes Trial over the teaching of evolution in U.S. schools; the Chamber's vice president for the environment, technology and regulatory affairs division called the Scopes Trial analogy "inappropriate."

Although nearly 70 percent of Duke’s electricity generation comes from burning coal, the company has worked to reduce its carbon exposure by expanding its renewable energy business. The company said Monday it is building its ninth U.S. wind farm in Wyoming, while a new program announced Tuesday will allow its Indiana customers to buy carbon offsets to neutralize the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their energy consumption.

The news about Duke withdrawing from ACCCE also highlights another dilemma facing companies whose various affiliations sometimes reflect conflicting positions. As the Wonk Room at Think Progress pointed out Wednesday, Duke isn’t the only big-name corporation “playing both sides of the field.”

General Electric, Alstom Power and Caterpillar, for example, remain members of both ACCCE and the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a pro-climate bill business coalition that heavily influenced the design of the Waxman-Markey legislation.

Other examples include:
• Members of USCAP and NAM: Dow Chemical, Ford, Chrysler, General Electric, ConocoPhillips, and Caterpillar
• Members of USCAP and American Petroleum Institute, which is organizing protests against the Waxman-Markey climate change bill: Siemens, Dow Chemical, Shell, General Electric, ConocoPhillips, and BP America
• Members of USCAP and the Chamber of Commerce: Alcoa, Caterpillar, ConocoPhillips, Deere & Company, Dow Chemical, Duke Energy, and Siemens
• Member of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy, a pro-climate bill coalition, and the Chamber of Commerce: Nike

Duke may not be the only company to wash its hands of ACCCE, according to Pete Altman, climate change director of the Natural Resources Defense Council: Alcoa also left ACCCE without much fanfare. According to EnviroKnow, First Energy also terminated its membership, but for budgetary reasons.

Image of Duke CEO Jim Rogers CC licensed by Flickr user World Resources Institute Staff.