The Heat Is Online

Leaked Document Shows Coal Industry Plan to Gut Climate, Air Regulations


Coal Industry Document Reveals Strategy For Opposing Climate Change and Air Quality Initiatives

An industry group that represents coal producers and suppliers has been carrying out an ambitious strategy for defeating or scaling back a host of ongoing congressional and state initiatives to limit greenhouse gases, mercury and other air pollutants, according to a recent internal letter obtained by Inside EPA.

The letter, sent between governing officers of the Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED), boasts about the group's ties with Republican officials and provides an unusual window into CEED's strategy for opposing air pollution control initiatives, including behind-the-scenes efforts to defeat proposals by state groups like the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) and the National Governors' Association.

CEED is scheduled to discuss these efforts at its upcoming annual meeting next month in Naples, FL.

A CEED source says the letter reflects the organization's "guiding principle of how we do business" by supporting a balance between energy production and environmental protection. "There's nothing in the letter that talks about defeating any EPA regulation," the source says. However, the source acknowledges the letter's references to fighting mandatory climate change control initiatives reflect key CEED goals. "It's no surprise that we're opposed to mandatory climate change programs," the source says, noting the organization instead supports voluntary and market-driven initiatives.

Among other things, the group is fighting various efforts by state attorneys general to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollution, and is using a "citizen army" to help defeat landmark climate change legislation that its key sponsors, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), have vowed to re-introduce next year.

The June 18 letter from CEED President Stephen Miller to Peabody Energy CEO Irl Engelhardt -- the chairman of CEED's board of directors -- lays out numerous steps the group is taking to urge Congress and state officials to oppose or scale back climate change and mercury initiatives, as well as legal strategies to support the Bush administration's new source review (NSR) reforms and fight state lawsuits to force EPA regulation of carbon dioxide (CO2).

The letter says CEED played a major role in convincing some state attorneys general (AGs) to intervene on behalf of the Bush administration in two separate sets of lawsuits against EPA's NSR reforms. "We took responsibility for securing several state attorneys general to intervene on EPA's side in the first round of litigation seeking to overturn the NSR 'general applicability' rules, which our members favored. Ultimately, eight attorneys general intervened in support of the Bush administration's position and CEED had lead responsibility for four of those AGs."

In addition, Miller says CEED "took advantage of [its] membership in the Republican Attorneys General Association to facilitate getting AGs to intervene in [the] second phase of the NSR litigation." The second phase involves EPA's new definition or routine maintenance and repair.

Miller also says CEED has worked hard to defeat an effort by ECOS -- at the state commissioners' 2004 mid-year meeting held this spring in Hot Springs, AR -- to produce a resolution urging EPA to drop the Bush administration's controversial proposal to cap and trade mercury emissions and instead issue a strict technology-based rule. "It boggles the mind to consider how much effort it took to stop ECOS from passing that resolution, which the sponsors dropped. . . a couple of days before the meeting," the letter says.

"The ECOS meeting turned into a raucous affair, with state officials yelling at one another, one breaking down in tears all over the mercury resolution," according to the CEED letter.

ECOS at its annual meeting this year in Oklahoma City, OK, failed again to pass a resolution on mercury and other pollutants, after its members could not reach consensus on how to endorse a multi-pollutant regulatory approach.

In the letter, CEED also raises concerns about a new ECOS effort on climate change. "ECOS will continue to be a challenge moving forward and they have just formed a Climate Change Working Group. Left to its own devices, you can imagine what that working group will conceive."

ECOS's air committee chairperson, Jane Stahl of Connecticut, said at the annual meeting earlier this month that the group is first planning to convene a panel of experts to discuss climate change before developing any policies on the issue.

Miller in his letter also suggests CEED was responsible for persuading two key states not to participate in a Northeastern initiative to develop a mandatory climate change program.

"Persuading Pennsylvania and Maryland (as major coal-consuming states) to stay on the sidelines, rather than signing onto this initiative, has been one element of our strategy."

He also cites the organization's success in having its research, which shows greenhouse gas controls would harm the economy, posted on a website for the state-driven Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). "We plan to use this research to sow discord among the RGGI states," Miller says.

And CEED served as "the lead organization for outreach to the vast majority of state attorneys general who intervened on the Bush administration's side in new litigation designed to force CO2 regulation under the Clean Air Act," the letter says. Miller is referring to litigation filed by a host of Northeastern states, including New York and Connecticut, to force EPA to regulate CO2.

Some of those states later dropped the lawsuit in order to join litigation by environmentalists that challenges an EPA rationale on why it is not regulating CO2.

The group also takes credit for securing grass-roots opposition to Senate legislation that would regulate greenhouse gases. "We activated the Americans for Balanced Energy Choices citizen army to call targeted U.S. senators, urging them to vote against"

legislation McCain and Lieberman introduced. At the time, the lawmakers were planning to offer the legislation -- which would impose first-time economy-wide caps on greenhouse gas emissions -- as an amendment to a pending class-action litigation reform bill.

"Through today, more than 6,000 citizen members have called or e-mailed their senators. Our most recent effort follows on the heels of last fall's citizen army activation, which generated more than 7,000 calls to target senators in opposition to McCain-Lieberman," the letter says. McCain and Lieberman eventually abandoned their legislative effort, pledging to reintroduce the bill in the next congressional session.

-- Rachel Urdan (C) Inside Washington Publishers Oct. 29, 2004