Schumer, Whitehouse Lead Letter Challenging U.S. Chamber Of Commerce, The Largest Lobbying Organization In The Country, To Back Basic Science And Immediately Begin Advocating For Senate Dem. Resolution That Calls For Urgent Action On Climate Crisis

March 13, 2019

In New Letter To Chamber Of Commerce President And CEO, Senate Dems Urge Chamber To Support, Issue A “Key Vote Alert,” And Include Support In Their Legislative Scorecard For New Senate Resolution Co-Sponsored By Entire Senate Democratic Caucus Stating Climate Change Is Real, Caused By Humans, And That The U.S. And Congress Need To Take Immediate Action 

Letter Also Raises Prospect That Chamber Is Supported By Fossil Fuel Interests Working Against Climate Policies Supported By Their Broader Membership And Urges Chamber To Disclose What Portions Of Their Revenues Come From The Fossil Fuel Sector, Either Companies Themselves Or The Front Groups Through Which They Distribute Money In Return For Climate Denial Services 

Senate Democrats: Chamber’s Hostility To Climate Legislation Is Out Of Step With Many Member Companies’ Policies

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and 22 of their Democratic colleagues are challenging the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to accept that human-caused climate change is real and warrants immediate action, and to urge members of Congress to follow suit.  In a letter sent today to Thomas Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Senators called on the largest lobbying organization in the country to begin advocating for an existing commonsense resolution that calls for urgent government action on climate change.

“It is time that we put aside our differences and start working to take real actions on climate change because the American people and American businesses can no longer afford inaction,” wrote the Senators.  “We believe the time has come for the Chamber to act on behalf of its members who support and stand to benefit from a transition to a clean energy economy.”

While many member companies of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pursue the reduction of carbon emissions as part of their business models, the Chamber has marshaled its considerable lobbying resources on behalf of those same companies to oppose congressional, executive, and judicial actions that would meaningfully address climate change.

“Once we achieve this first step of acknowledging the reality of the climate crisis and the need to act, we look forward to working with you and your membership to enact real, long-lasting policies that will benefit the economy and create millions of jobs,” the Senators conclude.

The letter was also signed by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jon Tester (D-MT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Angus King (I-ME), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Chris Coons (D-DE).

Full text of the letter is below.  A PDF is available here. 


March 13, 2019

Thomas J. Donohue

President and CEO

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

1615 H Street, NW

Washington, DC 20062

Dear Mr. Donohue:

We write today to request that the Chamber of Commerce support S.J. Res. 9, calling on the United States and Congress to take immediate action to address the challenge of climate change. We ask that you urge both Republicans and Democrats to swiftly pass this important resolution.

The resolution, which is currently co-sponsored by 47 Senators, states that it is the sense of Congress that:

  1. Climate change is real;
  2. Human activity during the last century is the dominant cause of the climate crisis; and
  3. The United States and Congress should take immediate action to address the challenge of climate change.

The language of this resolution is non-controversial.  It is scientifically accurate to say that our planet is heating up and that this warming is caused primarily by combustion of fossil fuels.  Both the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the United States Government’s National Climate Assessment agree that climate change is a serious crisis that requires urgent action if we are to limit some of its worst effects. 

As you know, many of your member companies and supporters agree with the scientific consensus that climate change is real and requires action.  However, we are aware that the Chamber – the largest lobbying organization in the country – has long used its considerable resources to fight legislative and administrative action on climate change.  In 2016, the Chamber ran numerous attack ads against candidates for their support of policies limiting carbon pollution.[1]  In 2017, the Chamber funded a misleading economic study critical of the Paris Agreement, a study that the President cited as a justification to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.[2]  Also in 2017, the Chamber lobbied in favor of a Congressional Review Act resolution to disapprove a rule limiting methane emissions from oil and gas facilities – going so far as to issue a “Key Vote Alert” implying that the Chamber’s future support of their reelection campaigns might depend on their vote.[3]  In 2018, the Chamber filed an amicus brief in support of major oil companies seeking to dodge tort liability for the damages their products have and will continue to cause.[4]

These efforts to fight action on climate change contravene several policies that would benefit our climate and clean air that the Chamber has supported, including: increasing the tax on gasoline; ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol which would phase out climate damaging hydrofluorocarbons; and maintaining the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard rule. 

These efforts also do not appear to reflect the views and interests of the Chamber’s Board Member companies.  In 2016, eight Senators examined the positions and actions of companies serving on your board and released a report finding that the Chamber did not accurately represent the positions, input, and knowledge of its board members.[5]  In particular, the report was unable to identify a single Board Member that had publicly endorsed the Chamber’s campaign against the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to limit carbon pollution.

What’s more, diverse and respected voices – including the Bank of England, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, Freddie Mac, and many professional economists – that we assume enjoy significant credibility with your membership are warning of major economic risks arising out of climate change and governmental failure to address climate change.  The economic consensus that we must act in order to mitigate these risks perhaps explains why major American companies such as Apple have left the Chamber in recent years. 

Climate action should not divide us; it should unite us.  While the Chamber in recent years has publicly admitted climate change is a “serious challenge,” you have continued politically to attack policies to address it.  We are also troubled that much of your funding is not disclosed, raising the prospect that you are supported by fossil fuel interests working against climate policies supported by your broader membership.  We urge you to disclose what portions of your revenues come from the fossil fuel sector, either companies themselves or the front groups through which they distribute money in return for climate denial services.

It is time that we put aside our differences and start working to take real actions on climate change because the American people and American businesses can no longer afford inaction.  We believe the time has come for the Chamber to act on behalf of its members who support and stand to benefit from a transition to a clean energy economy.

We therefore urge you and the Chamber to support S.J. Res. 9, issue a “Key Vote Alert” on the resolution, and include support for it on your legislative scorecard, thereby informing both Republicans and Democrats that support for this common-sense resolution is critical.  Once we achieve this first step of acknowledging the reality of the climate crisis and the need to act, we look forward to working with you and your membership to enact real, long-lasting policies that will benefit the economy and create millions of jobs.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. 

###

[1] See, e.g., “Run Jimmy,” U.S. Chamber Action (available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzMAw0MWrTs). 

[2] Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, “Fact-checking President Trump’s claims on the Paris climate change deal,” The Washington Post (June 1, 2017) (available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/06/01/fact-checking-president-trumps-claims-on-the-paris-climate-change-deal/?utm_term=.809f54f899f5).

[3] Key Vote Alert, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (May 9, 2017) (available at https://www.uschamber.com/sites/default/files/5.9.17-_key_vote_letter_to_senate_supporting_h.j._res._36_cra_resolution_repealing_blm_methane_rule.pdf).

[4] Brief of amicus curiae Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America in support of appellants and reversal, County of San Mateo v. Chevron, et al., Case No. 18-15499 (9th Cir.) (available at https://www.chamberlitigation.com/sites/default/files/cases/files/18181818/U.S.%20Chamber%20Amicus%20Brief%20--%20County%20of%20San%20Mateo%20v.%20Chevron%20Corporation%20-%20%28U.S.%20Court%20of%20Appeals%20for%20the%20Ninth%20Circuit%29.pdf).

[5] Sheldon Whitehouse and Elizabeth Warren, et al., “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Out of Step with the American People and its Members” (June 14, 2016) (available at https://www.warren.senate.gov/files/documents/2016-6-14-Chamber_of_Commerce_Report.pdf).