U.S. Chamber of Commerce Uses Familiar Scare Tactic on Pollution Rules

May 28, 2014


Keith Gaby, 202-572-3336, kgaby@edf.org

A new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce misuses data to imply that the cost of new carbon pollution standards will be far higher than neutral analysis or history shows is likely. The claims are in keeping with an extensive record of exaggerated statements about new clean air rules.

“It is disappointing to see the Chamber add to the long and unfortunate history of dire but groundless predictions from groups trying to stop EPA from protecting the public health,” said Elgie Holstein of Environmental Defense Fund. “Every time EPA takes a step to clean the air, opponents say the sky will fall. We need a calm discussion of the facts, not more distortions.”

EPA noted that the cost numbers in the Chamber of Commerce report are not only driven by made-up assumptions about what EPA’s standards might look like — assumptions that are clearly false — they also ignore the very real costs that climate change is imposing on American communities today.

There are currently no national limits at all on carbon pollution from power plants, Holstein noted. 

“These claims are part of a well-orchestrated attempt to maintain the status quo of unlimited carbon pollution from power plants,” he said. “The status quo is unacceptable. We need the carbon pollution standards. They will help keep our families and communities safer, and help create thousands of new jobs.”

Just last week, fact checkers criticized a coal industry group for spreading blatant falsehoods about the rules. The National Mining Association’s unfounded claim that the rules would raise energy prices were met by a sharp rebuke — the Washington Post’s widely respected Fact Checker called it an “unsupported claim”, “bogus” and “hyped”.

Contrary to the Chamber’s claim, independent analysis of a system of carbon standards similar to those in the report suggests a substantial net benefit to society.

A study conducted by economists Dallas Burtraw (Resources for the Future) and Matt Woerman (University of California), for instance, concludes benefits will likely outweigh costs by more than 3 to 1. That is in line with many prior analyses of Clean Air Act rules that find benefits dwarfing costs by 10 to 1 and more.

Historically, industry costs estimates for new environmental rules have often been exaggerated by 500% to 1000%. See our blog for more details.

The same was true of the recently enact limits on toxic mercury pollution.

Here’s just one example:

  • In 2011, FirstEnergy told its shareholders that it expected the cost of complying with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards to be “$2 billion to $3 billion.”
  • By 2013, FirstEnergy admitted to shareholders that its cost turned out to be “$465 million across the entire generation fleet.”

(Read more about the steep drop in costs reported by FirstEnergy and other major power companies here)

Attempts to spread misinformation about climate change and the supposed cost of action date back decades:

July 8, 1991, The New York Times: Pro-Coal Ad Disputes Warming Idea

“The goal of the [coal industry] campaign, according to one planning document, is to ‘reposition global warming as theory’ and not fact.”

April 26, 1998, New York Times: Industrial Group Plans to Battle Climate Treaty

“Industry opponents of [the Kyoto] treaty to fight global warming have drafted an ambitious proposal to spend millions of dollars to convince the public that the environmental accord is based on shaky science.”

July 13, 2011, The Center for American Progress: New Report Falsely Claims Cutting Tax Loopholes for Big Oil Worsens the Federal Budget Deficit

“The bottom line: Unbiased revenue estimators at four government agencies all drew the same conclusion—eliminating these two tax breaks for big oil companies would generate billions of dollars in revenue for the federal government.”

May 23, 2014 The Washington Post: A Bogus Claim that Electricity Prices will ‘Nearly Double’ Because of Clean Coal Technology

“There’s little justification for this radio ad to claim that people will see their electric bills nearly double because of the EPA rules on new coal plants.”

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