PG&E Quits US Chamber, Protesting Its Climate Change Stance

pg_ePeter Darbee, chairman and CEO of California utility Pacific Gas & Electric, on Tuesday took a very public stand against the US Chamber of Commerce and what he calls its “disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort” the facts around global climate change.

The utility quit the Chamber, a lobbying group that represents three million businesses and has called for the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a public hearing in order to debate whether climate change is a result of human activity–part of its attempts to oppose federal emissions regulations.

In reaction to PG&E’s withdrawal from the Chamber, Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, expressed his view that the Chamber is isolating and alienating itself from its membership with its “extreme views” about climate science. “It’s also a head scratcher,” he said, “because the science is so clear and the needed response is so attractive from a business perspective. A responsible strategy to address climate change will create investment, growth and market opportunities for so many of the companies that once relied on the Chamber to illuminate the future.”

PG&E is not the first Chamber member to air its dismay at the organizations’ stance on climate change. Politico reports that Johnson & Johnson and Nike have both taken steps to put distance between their firms and the Chamber’s lobbying against climate and cap-and-trade legislation.

Johnson & Johnson issued a request to the Chamber, asking that it not make comments on climate change that do not reflect the views of all Chamber members.  Nike has asked the Chamber to take a more progressive stance on pushing for environmental protection.

Other corporations have hinted at their intent to hold their membership fees in protest–a tactic that seems as though it might serve as an even better leveraging tool than PG&E’s resignation. What’s your take? What’s the best course for members of the Chamber who oppose its position on climate change to take?

Freelance writer Mary Catherine O'Connor finds that a growing number of companies are proving the ways that they can make good financially, socially and environmentally (as the triple bottom line theory suggests).With that in mind, she contributes to Triple Pundit, as well as to Earth2Tech and other pubs focused on sustainability. She also writes The Good Route, an Outside Magazine blog that addresses the intersection of sustainability and the active/outdoor life.To find out more, or to reach her, go to

6 responses

  1. I think refusing to pay membership fees is a great idea. If all the responsible progressive corporations withdraw from the chamber it will end up being even more unbalanced in its views.

  2. I think it’s key for the corporations to very publicly leave the chamber, not just withhold fees. This not only hits them in the wallet but, more importantly, damages their credibility and help de-legitimize the organization.

    The Chamber only has power with politicians to the extent that it can claim to represent a lot of money. If corporations don’t publicly leave, the Chamber can still claim them as members to maintain clout.

    Even though my friend who works for a utility says this about PG&E’s action:”It’s about shareholder value and PR(hook line and sinker) not good behavior”, I don’t mind.

    The PR hit that the Chamber takes is well worth it even if PG&E is just being selfish

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