The Men Behind the Curtain: Setting the US Chamber's Climate Policy

The Chamber has repeatedly claimed that it sets climate policy through its 'democratic' committee process, as the Chamber's Eric Wohlschlegel told the New York Times yesterday:

"It's an open and voluntary process, and it's formulated by a majority of our members that represents the broader business community's perspective and not just the interests of one sector, one energy sector ... or one sector of the economy."

But as the Times reports and as I've mentioned a couple of times, the process isn't so clear-cut as the Chamber would have us believe.

For example, the Chamber released a "booklet" yesterday that describes the committee policy-making process it ostensibly uses to set policy, and explains that

"Maintaining the integrity of the process is essential for both moral and practical reasons. Very few members resign from the U.S. Chamber because of policy disagreements. This record can be maintained if members know that their views receive a fair hearing and that the Chamber takes positions through a democratic process."

Now we've known for a while that the Chair of the Chamber's Energy and Environment Committee is a fellow named Don Sterhan, because the Chamber's 2008 report on the Committee says so.

But Mother Jones' Josh Harkinson talked to Mr. Sterhan and today reveals some fascinating insights, not the least of which is that Mr. Sterhan says that Chamber Vice-President Bill Kovacs set the Chamber's climate policy when it challenged the EPA's proposal to regulate greenhouse gases without consulting the board of directors:

"But Donald Sterhan, chair of the Chamber's energy and environment committee, says that its board of directors and its committees never formally endorsed the climate stance. "There was no vote taken," he says. He adds that his committee held "really more of an information discussion" than a policy debate on the issue. The final decision to challenge the EPA's regulation of greenhouse gasses, he explains, was "Bill [Kovac's] position on this, and his finding." Still, Sterhan says that the energy committee could have voted to change the policy if any of its 60 members had filed a motion to do so.

So there's some food for thought. The Chairman of the committee that is supposed to be protecting the integrity of the Chamber's committee process flatly admits that the Committee didn't do its job; and the Chamber Vice-President foolish enough to have likened a trial about climate science to the Scopes Trial turns out to be the guy who is actually putting pen to paper when the US Chamber of Commerce needs to state a position on the issue.


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Running tab of the Chamber's climate credibility crisis:

Quit US Chamber over climate:  Apple, Exelon, PNM Resources, PG&E, PSEG, Levi Strauss & Co.*

Quit US Chamber Board over climate: Nike.

Say Chamber doesn't represent their views on climate: Johnson&Johnson, General Electric, San Jose Chamber of Commerce, Alcoa, Duke, Entergy, Microsoft.

* UPDATE 11/12/09: Levi-Strauss informed us that the company did not leave the US Chamber over climate concerns, as Greenwire had reported.