Pro regs biz groups hail climate rule

Most small businesses support President Obama’s clean energy rules for power plants, a coalition of environmentally friendly small-business groups contends.

Washington's leading business groups — heavyweights like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association Manufacturers — have decried the centerpiece of the president's climate change initiative as job-killing executive overreach.

But the coalition, citing polling, says as many as three-quarters of small businesses support the regulations.

John Arensmeyer, CEO of Small Business Majority, said the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, released Monday, is an essential step in encouraging new innovations while addressing climate change.

“Fifty-seven percent of small businesses believe climate change and extreme weather events are an urgent problem, and one in five said they have had to lay off employees due to extreme weather,” he told reporters during a teleconference that included representatives from Ceres, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), the American Sustainable Business Council and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

Small Business Majority claims to represent 40,000 small businesses, while Ceres works with 70 companies on social and environmental issues. The other groups don't list how many groups they work with or members they have.

The final rules announced Monday require states to draft plans to cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

“The clean power rules are going to create tens of thousands of jobs if not hundreds of thousands of jobs by some estimates,” E2 Executive Director Bob Keefe said.

Keefe said E2 has tracked clean energy jobs over the last three years and the states with the best clean energy policies create the most jobs. The administration’s rule, he said, is going to be a huge economic catalyst.

But the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) disagrees.

The group, which claims to represent 350,000 small-business owners, said the clean power rule is going to drive up costs for small-business owners and drain their customers of discretionary income.

“That’s a deadly combination for the small business sector,” NFIB President and CEO Dan Danner said in a statement. “Operating expenses will increase as the cost of electricity rises and customers will have less money to spend on Main Street. It’s a recipe for fewer jobs and slower growth.”

NFIB said the tough standards will ultimately force states to close down coal-powered generators that now provide the vast majority of Americans with power and switch to alternative energy sources like wind and solar power, which are unreliable, weaker and more expensive.

“Energy is one of the building blocks of the economy,” Danner said. “It’s necessary to provide every service and manufacture every product. Small businesses are especially sensitive to higher electricity prices and so are their customers.”

NFIB also fears the rule will undermine the nation’s electricity grid, which American businesses rely on.