New Website Tracks Chamber of Commerce Climate Follies As Schism Grows

NRDCcampaignA new website created by the National Resources Defense Council urges companies to take a stand on the growing debate within the US Chamber of Commerce over the chamber’s stance on legislation addressing climate change.

The website is an extension of the work being done by Peter Altman, the environmental watchdog’s Climate Campaign director, whose has been following the story doggedly on his blog.

Full Court Press

The NRDC has also launched an online ad campaign, in collaboration with the Environmental Defense Action Fund. Ads ask “Why are American Companies Leaving the Chamber?”

Meanwhile, several news sites, including the New York Times, Greenwire, and Mother Jones, have apparently decided the story has legs, and have begun investigations of their own.

Who Makes the Rules Around Here?

On Wednesday, Mother Jones revealed that the chamber’s position opposing new EPA regulations of greenhouse gases was written by chamber vice president Bill Kovacs, who called for a “Scopes Monkey Trial” of climate science back in August.

From Mother Jones:

Donald Sterhan, chair of the Chamber’s energy and environment committee, says that its board of directors and its committees never formally endorsed the climate stance. “There was no vote taken,” he says. He adds that his committee held “really more of an information discussion” than a policy debate on the issue. The final decision to challenge the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gasses, he explains, was “Bill [Kovac’s] position on this, and his finding.” Still, Sterhan says that the energy committee could have voted to change the policy if any of its 60 members had filed a motion to do so.

Other chamber members said when they questioned the chamber’s climate stance they “were told that basically this was not the forum to do it,” adding “there’s basically no outlet for changing the policy.”

Nike, which left the chamber board of directors but kept its membership, said it took the move in part because it felt the real decisions on climate policy at the chamber were being made behind the scenes.

Chamber spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel said the chamber reaches its positions through a “democratic process” that is “driven by members,” according to Greenwire.

Dissenters List Grows

The list of major corporations that have either left the chamber or publicly disagree with its stance continues to grow. A handy roll call:

Apple, Exelon, PNM Resources, PG&E, New Jersey-based utility PSEG, and Levi Strauss & Co have all quit the chamber because of its view on climate change. Levi took its stand early–leaving the organization back in 2001.

Nike recently left the chamber’s board of directors, citing concerns over its stance on climate change.

Johnson&Johnson, General Electric, San Jose Chamber of Commerce, Alcoa, Duke, Entergy, and Microsoft have all stated that the chamber doesn’t represent their views on climate.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

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