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Business as Usual: The US Chamber's History of Fighting Environmental Protection

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The EPA's new Clean Power Plan is not difficult to defend. Limiting carbon pollution from power plants, the nation's single largest polluter, will undeniably protect the public health and welfare of millions of Americans, not to mention that it is a crucial step towards protecting our land and water from the adverse effects of climate change. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants us to believe otherwise.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a long history of anti-environmental extremism and false predictions about public health safeguards. The most recent of these claims is an alarmist "study" the Chamber released declaring that the EPA's Clean Power Plan would cause devastation in the U.S. economy, kill hundreds of thousands of jobs, and skyrocket electricity bills. Fortunately, there is little truth to these claims; the Chamber's "study" was conjured up before the EPA's proposal was even released, and is thus based on flawed assumptions that are meaningfully different from the EPA's actual proposal.

Independent media fact checkers have called the Chamber's conclusions "false." The Washington Post awarded "four Pinocchios" to Speaker of the House John Boehner and other Republican officials who cited the study. The Chamber of Commerce acknowledges the study analyzed sources that did not address the EPA's actual proposed rule. So why do the Chamber and their allies - Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS and the Koch Brother's Americans for Prosperity - continue to cite the study as a means to attack the actual proposed EPA plan?

This is the question that prompted us at the League of Conservation Voters to release a TV ad that reveals the Chamber's desperation; the Chamber's study is highly misleading, and in order to have an honest discussion about the EPA's proposed plan, the public and those involved in the conversation ought to know the truth. The Chamber, on the other hand, insists on obscuring the truth, reiterating that they will "continue to oppose efforts that harm American families and businesses."

In response to the ad, the Chamber whined that their report was taken out of context and that we used "over-the-top rhetoric." But the simple truth is that there is no context where the Chamber's false study can be fairly cited, and some of the strongest rhetoric in the ad came directly from independent fact-checkers like Politifact.

The Chamber of Commerce is an organization whose donors and board members hail, in great number, from fossil fuel companies that profit from the status quo where there are no national limits on carbon pollution. It is their bottom line, and not American families, that is their top priority. Their history is rife with opposition to public health and safety standards.

In 2011, the Chamber falsely attacked mercury and air toxic standards for power plants, predicting blackouts that never occurred. In 2010, the Chamber sought to repeal the "Endangerment Finding," a scientific assessment that requires the EPA to set pollution limits on climate pollution from cars and light duty trucks. In 1997, the Chamber tried to undermine the science behind the air quality public health standards for smog. And in 1990, the Chamber attacked the costs of the Clean Air Act Amendments, costs which have been dwarfed by the benefits by a ratio of more than 30:1.

The Chamber has also historically distorted climate science, It made the dubious assertion that climate change would "on balance, be beneficial to humans" - a claim clearly discredited by numerous scientific studies, including the National Climate Assessment. The Chamber is a "merchant of doubt," trying to sow doubt about climate science among the public, government officials, and the media. In fact 97% of peer reviewed scientific climate studies agree humans played a major role in climate change. A Chamber official even proposed a "Scopes monkey trial" on climate change science, ignoring the overwhelming evidence that climate change is real and climate change is happening.

In the end, the Chamber's past actions and extreme views cost them high profile members - PG&E, Exelon and PMN Resources, Apple, and Levi Strauss resigned from the chamber in 2009 due to its opposition to reductions in climate pollution.

Clearly, putting the profits of fossil fuel companies ahead of the health and safety of Americans' air, water, and land is simply business as usual for the Chamber.

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