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US Chamber Supports Kerry-Graham Climate Proposal Principles

    By Ian Talley 

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Tuesday said it supports most of the principles outlined in a bipartisan climate change proposal offered by Sens. John Kerry, (D., Mass.) and Lindsey Graham, (R., N.C.) and the organization is open to considering a federal cap on emissions as one possible legislative solution.

The comments, made in a letter to Senators currently considering climate change legislation in the Environment and Public Works Committee, comes after several high-profile departures from the Chamber.

Chamber officials are adamant, however, the principles outlined in the letter aren't a change in the organization's position, but have been long-stated policies.

Kerry and Graham last month penned an editorial calling for bipartisan climate change legislation that would include a market-based solution to cut greenhouse gases that would provide flexibility to emitters and without hindering competitiveness or driving jobs overseas. To bring on Republican support, the duo proposed incentives for new nuclear power, offshore oil drilling and "clean coal" technology.

In the letter to environment committee chairman Sen. Barbara Boxer, (D., Calif.) and ranking members Sen. James Inhofe, (R., Okla.), the chamber "commended" the Senator's editorial.

"The Chamber welcomes the call for a new conversation on how to address the issue and believes their editorial can serve as a solid, workable, commonsense foundation on which to craft a bill," wrote Bruce Josten, the Chamber's executive Vice President of Government Affairs, in the letter.

"Senators Kerry and Graham have set forth a positive, practical and realistic framework for legislation, one that echoes the core principles that the chamber embeds in all of its communications on climate policy," he said.

The organization came under heavy fire by environmental groups and some businesses after its officials challenged the Environmental Protection Agency's draft proposal finding greenhouse gas emissions are a threat to public health and welfare.

The Chamber says even though it believes the EPA's decision isn't founded on a full assessment of data, the organization hasn't challenged the science of climate change.

It has also drawn ire for a series of adds attacking climate legislation. Companies such as Duke Energy (DUK), PG&E Corp. (PCG), PNM Resources Inc. (PNM) and Exelon Corp (EXC)--all of which stand to potentially benefit under climate legislation--say the Chamber hasn't been adequately representing their positions on climate change legislation.

Josten, in an interview, said Kerry's and Graham's four principles, "essentially embodied all five of the chamber's principles that we have been communicating and articulating to Congress and the broader public for several years now."

For example, Josten pointed to a May 14, 2009 letter to federal lawmakers that called for "strong, sensible legislation to address global climate change that protects jobs and the economy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions." In that letter, the Chamber said it "does not, as a matter of policy, support or oppose any specific conceptual approach to address greenhouse gas emissions, including a cap-and-trade or carbon tax," but specifically warned against the EPA regulating emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Josten said the Chamber's particular concern with the House-passed climate bill was its "attempts to take a lot of fossil fuel offline, and it does very little to bring any of these alternatives or nuclears online."

Asked if his organization would consider a cap-and-trade mechanism as currently being considered, Josten said, "Absolutely."

With members who favor different solutions, "We haven't taken a position on either carbon tax or cap and trade, so we're open to that."

"I don't think that a clear consensus has evolved in the business community," he added.

The one concept the Chamber objected to in the Kerry-Graham editorial was a proposed tariff on emission-intensive imports, a measure they say could provoke major trade retaliations. It's also a provision the Obama Administration has criticized for the same reason.


-By Ian Talley, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9285;


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 03, 2009 14:33 ET (19:33 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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