Climate debate has some industries spending at record pace

Correction appended.

Industries trying to shape landmark climate legislation spent hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying this spring, with a few doling out dollars at speeds likely to smash records set last year.

The 10 biggest industries with stakes in the energy bill passed by the House and under way in the Senate spent a total of $122 million on lobbying in April, May and June. That compares with $112 million in the same period a year ago. The biggest jumps came from oil and gas, electric utilities and alternative energy companies.

"When legislation is crafted they don't like, that's when they tend to open the wallets a bit to bring on more lobbyists," said Kenneth Green, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "For them to be increasing their spending when they're looking at legislation that has a bigger and bigger impact on their industry makes perfect sense."

Oil and gas business outspent all other energy competitors, putting $37.7 million toward lobbying in the second quarter versus $28.9 million in same period last year. The industry now is pushing in the Senate for changes to the climate bill passed by the House.


With the second-quarter numbers, the industry appeared on track to break last year's record for lobbying expenditures. In the first half of 2009, oil and gas interests spent $82.2 million, compared with $132.2 million in all of 2008.

"What's going on this year is very important; clearly, the climate change bill is very important," said Bill Bush, spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute. "It could have major impacts on oil production, refinery jobs, imports, and according to various studies, prices."

Within the petroleum industry, Chevron Corp. spent the most in the second quarter, putting $6 million into lobbying.

Alternative energy companies, while spending far less than oil and gas, boosted their lobbying efforts. The industry spent $8.2 million in the second quarter, compared with $5.8 million a year earlier. The American Wind Energy Association, a trade group, topped that group, with $1.8 million in lobbying expenses.

In the first half of this year, alternative energy companies spent $16.1 million on lobbying, 72 percent of their $22.4 million total for all of last year.

E&E examined spending for 10 industries lobbying on climate and energy legislation: oil and gas, electric utilities, chemical and related manufacturing, agricultural services and products, alternate energy and production services, mining, coal mining, environmental, forestry and forest products, and natural gas transmission and distribution. The industry data were compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, which uses reports filed with the House and determines the industry categories.

Some fared better than others in the climate legislation produced by the House. Oil and gas, despite its spending on lobbying, so far has not won the language it wants. The House legislation from Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sets up a program that caps carbon and then requires businesses to buy permits for carbon pollution. In the early years, it gives 85 percent of those permits away for free.

Utilities get the largest portion of those free permits, while oil and gas refineries won the smallest number. Free allowances to utilities would be given out based partly on which power companies emitted the most carbon pollution in the past. That means coal-fired utilities will capture the largest portion of free allowances.

But Green cautioned that it is too early to say that lobbying done by the oil and gas industry failed to work.

"It remains to be seen," Green said. "The process is long from finished."

API's Bush agreed.

"We were able to educate a lot of people," Bush said. "This is an ongoing debate."

So far, Green said, electric utilities appear to be the big winners in climate legislation. And that industry dramatically beefed up its spending in the second quarter.

Southern Co. leads utilities

Electric utilities had trailed the oil and gas industry on lobbying in the first quarter but edged closer in the second quarter. The utilities paid out $35.9 million on lobbying, compared with $32.2 million spent in the same period last year.

Southern Co., an Atlanta-based power company, spent the most on lobbying in its industry: $2.7 million in the second quarter and $6.3 so far this year. The company, along with Ohio-based AEP, North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp., and the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group for the industry, helped craft the part of the House climate bill that gives allowances to power plants with a history of high carbon emissions.

Southern Co., AEP (formerly American Electric Power Co. Inc.) and Duke Energy use large amounts of coal in their power generation.

Jim Owen, spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, has said that the industry advocated for policies that would keep electric bills from increasing sharply under a cap-and-trade program.

The Senate is unlikely to change that much, Green said.

"It's a key issue to the Democrats that the actual pain of the bill be hidden from the consumer," Green said. The only way to do that, he said, is to give the free permits to electric utilities.

Other industries

For most other industries lobbying on climate legislation, spending stayed level from last year or picked up slightly.

Chemical companies and related manufacturers spent $10.5 million, versus $11.9 million a year earlier. In that category, the American Chemistry Council led the pack, with $1.3 million in lobbying.

Agricultural services and products spent $8.2 million, versus $8.4 million in the second quarter of 2008. Monsanto Co. spent the most, $2.1 million

Spending declined for mining companies, which allocated $6.9 million for lobbying in the second quarter of this year, versus $8.4 million in the same period 2008. Peabody Energy Corp. spent the most, $1.6 million.

It also dropped for coal mining, which spent $3.9 million on lobbying, down from $4.3 million in the second quarter of 2008.

Environmental groups spent $5.2 million on lobbying, steady compared with the $5.3 million spent last year.

Natural gas transmission and distribution companies spent $3.3 million, versus $3 million from last year.

Forestry and forest products racked up $3 million in lobbying costs, down from $3.9 million in the second quarter of 2008. That industry has been hit by an economic downturn. The drop in new home construction cut demand for wood. And less consumer spending created less need for packages and boxes. At the same time, magazines and newspapers have slashed pages.


This article was updated at 5:17 p.m. to correct lobbying expenditures by the alternative energy industry.

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