Cap-and-trade battle finds new momentum

| 10/9/2009

Several major American utility companies and retailers have thrown down the gauntlet before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – saying they would support cap-and-trade legislation and oppose the Chamber’s efforts to defeat climate change proposals.

Cap and trade would establish limits for several business sectors. A credit system would allow businesses that operate above limits to purchase credits and businesses with leftover credits to sell on the open market.

The House narrowly approved a cap-and-trade bill in July, and Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and John Kerry, D-MA, introduced companion legislation in the Senate last week.

Climate change legislation seeks to reduce U.S. emissions by using a market-based investment approach known as cap and trade.

Mike Joyce, OOIDA director of legislative affairs, said the split shows a major shift among U.S. business leaders that could bring new life to the cap-and-trade push that’s already supported by President Obama.

Powerful utility companies such as Excelon Corp. and retailers Apple and Nike recently announced they have left the Chamber over the chamber’s opposition to cap and trade.

“This creates a new dynamic,” Joyce told Land Line. “You’ve got these large, well-known names – Nike, Apple, Exelon – that have resources of their own and don’t necessarily need to rely on the Chamber of Commerce to advance their agenda. They’re now advocating a position that is more closely aligned with the president and with leadership in Congress that wants to create climate change legislation.”

A former executive of the American Trucking Associations has made headlines because of the corporate cap-and-trade debate.

U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue is reportedly being pressured to resign from the board of Union Pacific Railroad or leave his position as head of the Chamber.

The railroad reportedly prohibits its board members from taking action that conflicts with Union Pacific’s interests.

Donahue previously served 13 years as president and CEO of the ATA.

Several Democrats have recently expressed doubts that cap-and-trade legislation will be completed this year. Hearings and mark-up sessions for the Boxer-Kerry cap and trade bill are expected to begin this month.

OOIDA opposed the House cap-and-trade bill, and is closely monitoring specifics of Senate proposals as they’re worked out this fall, Joyce said.

Joyce said the U.S. Chamber’s recent division over cap and trade has likely created new supporters of such a proposed climate change system.

“It’s certainly a welcome addition to the pro-climate change members of congress,” Joyce said. “I’m sure they’re welcoming these companies with open arms. And as more and more companies join those supporting climate change, you’re likely to see other well-known organizations jump the fence as well.

“And I would imagine these companies are going to have a say in proposals that may be more beneficial to their industry,” Joyce said.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer