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Planet Ark World Environment News Lobbyists Elbow for Influence on U.S. Climate Bill

Date: 13-Aug-09
Country: US
Author: Timothy Gardner

NEW YORK - Manufacturers and energy companies sent squads of lobbyists to the U.S. Congress earlier this year to influence the climate bill, an indication the U.S. Senate will face pressure to adjust the legislation ahead of its vote, a nonprofit investigative group said.

Manufacturers lead the pack with some 200 companies and advocacy groups out of 1,150 total groups that lobbied Congress on the climate change issue during the second quarter, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

The period examined was the 12 weeks leading up to the vote by the House of Representatives in late June. The House narrowly passed the climate legislation that seeks to cut emissions of gases blamed for warming the planet 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

"It is clear that the Senate faces formidable challenges as this lobbying force of more than 1,100 seeks to sway the debate," CPI said.

Democratic leaders hope the Senate will vote on its version of the bill in October ahead of a United Nations meeting in Copenhagen in December on the future of international policy on climate change.

Some 130 power and utility companies and advocacy groups also lobbied on climate legislation. Those companies could see some of the biggest changes from climate legislation as big stationary coal and natural gas burners are easier to regulate than sources of carbon dioxide from cars and planes.

Nearly 80 agriculture companies and advocacy groups and 20 biofuel interests, like Poet, LLC, the top producer of ethanol, lobbied on the bill. The farm belt won late points in the House version of the bill, just before the late June vote. Those gains including protections for the ethanol and biodiesel industries.

"The closer we got to finishing the bill, the more intense the frenzy to get little pieces into the bill," a senior Congressional staffer was quoted as saying in a CPI report about the 1,400 page legislation.

Other interests lobbying on the climate bill included natural gas, smart grid and religious groups. The total number of companies and advocacy organizations lobbying on climate issues grew 30 percent from the first quarter.

It is hard to measure how much money was spent on lobbying on the climate bill, since businesses do not have to detail expenses for separate issues they are pushing in Congress, CPI said.

But the amount of money being spent on climate lobbying was not as much that spent on lobbying for health care reform, which has reached hundreds of millions of dollars. That could change as the debate turns to the Senate.

"Come December who knows what will happen as (the effort on climate) goes international," said Steve Carpinelli, a spokesman for CPI.

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