Waxman, Markey slam utility group for 'misinforming' its members on climate

Senior House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats on Thursday said a major electric utility trade group is “actively misinforming” its members about federal climate change policy and taking a position that many of the members don’t support.

Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) criticized the American Public Power Association (APPA), which represents publicly owned utilities, for supporting a Senate proposal to limit the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

“Numerous APPA members have informed us over the last 24 hours that they do not support APPA’s position,” the two lawmakers wrote in a letter to the trade group. Waxman chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee and Markey heads the Energy and Environment subcommittee.

The letter also alleges that APPA appears to be misinforming members about whether Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) proposal would prevent EPA from finalizing auto emissions rules.

Waxman and Markey say that APPA informed its members that it is unclear whether Murkowski’s proposal, which has 39 other backers, would block EPA’s tailpipe greenhouse gas standards.

“APPA’s staff knows that is not the case,” Waxman and Markey write, noting that APPA has a copy of a recent EPA letter to senators that says Murkowski’s plan would scuttle the auto rule.

Murkowski’s resolution would overturn EPA’s “endangerment finding” that greenhouse gases threaten humans. The finding is a legal precursor to planned EPA emissions rules. Murkowski argues that rules limiting emissions from power plants and other stationary sources would harm the economy.

But the Obama administration, which opposes her plan, says it would scuttle the auto rule too — and hurt automakers that would have to meet a patchwork of state requirements if the EPA rule is blocked.

The Waxman-Markey letter asks APPA to clarify its position on EPA’s endangerment finding and also asks whether the group opposes regulation of carbon emissions from autos.

It also asks the group to update its members with “accurate information” that explains the effect of Murkowski’s plan on the EPA auto rule.

APPA could not be reached for comment.

Update: An APPA spokesman said the group is holding off on a detailed reaction for now, waiting instead to provide Waxman and Markey formal responses to their questions, which the lawmakers said they wanted by March 3. “We appreciate this because it gives us another opportunity to go into more detail on our position on this,” spokesman Nick Braden said. Braden did note that the group has over 2,000 members and they are almost never in unanimous agreement on any issue. However, a "strong majority" of the group's members agree with its support for Murkowski's resolution, he said.

This post was updated at 3:23 p.m.