Business blitz seeks fast passage of Senate climate bill

Executives from the Dow Chemical Co., Entergy Corp., Nike Inc. and more than 140 other companies and venture capital firms will convene in Washington this week to lobby Senate lawmakers to pass a comprehensive climate and energy bill quickly.

"This is a powerful message that U.S. businesses are united on the urgency for tackling climate change," said Timberland Co. President and CEO Jeff Swartz, whose company helped organize the lobbying blitz with the help of the investor coalition Ceres.

Swartz and other business leaders plan to have lunch tomorrow with the Senate's "Gang of 16," which includes Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and other industrial-state lawmakers whose support is seen as crucial to passing the greenhouse gas cap-and-trade bill introduced last week by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

The House passed companion legislation in June, but White House officials have signaled in recent weeks that they believe it is unlikely Congress will be able to send a compromise bill to President Obama before the U.N. climate conference in Denmark in December (Greenwire, Oct. 2).

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is slated to speak tomorrow at a dinner with the business executives. The executives will meet Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on Wednesday morning.


The executives are also slated to meet with lawmakers and staff members in 35 Senate offices, as well as with White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy Director Carol Browner, according to officials familiar with the meetings.

"Time is of the essence," said Peyton Fleming, a Ceres spokesman.

Twenty-six of the companies, including Constellation Energy Group Inc., Exelon Corp. and Starbucks Corp., underscored their support for congressional action on climate and energy legislation in an open letter to Obama and Senate lawmakers recently.

"Putting a price on carbon will drive investment into cost-saving, energy-saving technologies and will create the next wave of jobs in the new energy economy," the letter noted. "For the United States to compete and lead, you must act."

Exelon, which operates the nation's largest fleet of nuclear power plants, is helping to coordinate a separate advertising blitz. The campaign, which includes the support of more than two dozen utilities, unions and environmental groups, will begin with a print ad in major national newspapers this week, according to an official knowledgeable of the campaign.

The print ad will call on the Senate to pass climate and energy legislation this year -- which the groups contend would help create 1.7 million jobs.

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