Climate bill drives energy companies to spend more lobbying

Energy companies significantly increased their lobbying expenditures last year as Congress considered controversial climate change legislation that promised to rearrange the nation’s energy mix.

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI), which represents for-profit electric utilities, spent around $10.5 million in 2009 to lobby Congress. That was more than a 40 percent increase from the $7.5 million the group spent in 2008.

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EEI played a critical role in drafting what became the House climate bill, which squeaked by a floor vote last June but has since stalled in the Senate.

The trade group helped to craft the formula for the distribution of valuable pollution allowances that companies can trade to meet their emissions reductions targets. However, EEI also complained the reductions targets in the bill were too steep.

The American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s main lobby, increased its advocacy budget to $7.3 million over the $4.8 million it had spent in 2008.

Another oil and gas group, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, increased its lobbying spending to just under $1.7 million, more than a 50 percent boost from the $1.1 million it had spent the year before.

Meanwhile, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, which represents 28 natural gas exploration and production companies, paid K Street $1.6 million in 2009. The alliance spent that much in just the last half of the year in hopes of reshaping the House-passed climate bill that natural gas companies contend is too generous to the coal industry.

It wasn’t just fossil fuel groups spending more to influence lawmakers.

The American Wind Energy Association, which lobbied aggressively in support of an economic stimulus package that included $80 billion in clean energy funding, spent more than $3.3 million to lobby Congress and the administration. In 2008, the group spent just under $1.7 million on lobbying.

The Solar Energy Industries Association also spent more, although the increase was less dramatic. The trade group spent $1.6 million on lobbying, compared with the $1.4 million it spent in 2008.

Companies, nonprofit groups, business trade associations, and lobbying firms are required to report their expenditures to Congress every quarter.