Chamber president: ‘We’re not changing’ on climate legislation

The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Thursday the powerful business group would not alter its opposition to climate legislation in Congress despite the recent defections of four companies.

“We’re not changing where we are,” Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the Chamber, told reporters Thursday morning.

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Utilities Exelon, Pacific Gas & Electric and PNM Resources and tech giant Apple have quit the business trade group in the past two weeks.

A fifth company, Nike, resigned from the board and complained publicly that it was not consulted before the Chamber sent out a petition opposing a move by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.

Donohue said there was broad support within the 300,000-member group for its stance against the House climate bill and similar legislation.

Fewer than a dozen companies that remain in the Chamber have expressed a desire for the trade group to moderate its position on climate, Donohue said.

“There is almost nobody that is pressing us to change our position,” he said.

Donohue did express regret for the words used by William Kovacs, the Chamber’s vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs, who in an interview with a Los Angeles Times reporter called for a test akin to the Scopes Monkey Trial to weigh the evidence that humans cause global warming.

“We are not arguing the science,” Donohue said.

But the Chamber will continue to press the EPA to hold a public hearing on its efforts to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, he said.

Some lobbyists for companies on the Chamber’s board have told The Hill that they did not remember ever voting on the Chamber’s climate principles, against which climate bills are measured.

Chamber lobbyist Bruce Josten explained that the principles were approved by the group’s energy and environment subcommittee. The subcommittee has more than 100 representatives who represent a mix of companies and trade groups.

The agreed-to climate principles were then placed on a consent calendar and brought before the Chamber’s board of directors. Any board member can object to their inclusion on the calendar. But Chamber officials couldn’t recall the last time the principles were brought before the board on the calendar.

Neither the board nor the energy and environment subcommittee has voted on the Chamber’s specific opposition to the House-passed climate change bill, sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.). Josten said the Chamber opposes the bill because it did not satisfy its climate principles.

In its letter resigning from the Chamber “effective immediately,” Apple said it was “frustrating” that the Chamber’s climate stance was at odds with the tech giant’s own efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

“We would prefer that the Chamber take a more progressive stance on this critical issue and play a constructive role in addressing the climate crisis,” said Catherine Novelli, vice president for worldwide government affairs for Apple.