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To mark our 30th anniversary, we’ve reached into our archives to highlight key events and players who made a difference since we made our debut. A version of the following article appeared in the Sept. 21, 1998, edition…
The nation’s manufacturing, utility, and energy interests have launched a pre-emptive lobbying strike against any U.S. move to embrace the global warming pact signed by 167 nations in Kyoto, Japan, last December. The controversial agreement is designed to reduce worldwide emissions that contribute to global warming. Last July, the business coalition successfully lobbied for the insertion of an unusual rider in the House appropriations bill that funds the Environmental Protection Agency, which has oversight over global warming. The rider not only prohibits the agency from issuing regulations about the agreement until it is ratified by the Senate, but also bars the agency from even the “contemplation of implementation” of regulations. The accord, which was signed by the United States, requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate to be ratified and formally bind the U.S. government. It calls for a 7 percent reduction of so-called greenhouse gases in the United States. Connie Holmes, who chairs the Global Climate Coalition, a group of 75 major companies and associations opposing the Kyoto Protocol, says this strong language was necessary to send a clear message to the Clinton administration that it must not quietly begin enacting rules on global warming in anticipation of ratification of the treaty. The rider, introduced by Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.), has drawn sharp criticism from environmental advocates and from a bipartisan group of representatives. They fear that the broad language will be used by EPA opponents in industry and Congress to indiscriminately attack a variety of EPA clean air initiatives that are only loosely linked to the Kyoto accords. “If they got this through, they would use it to beat up on the administration and to intimidate the people in the bureaucracies from doing their job,” says Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). In a letter issued last week, Waxman, joined by four other Democrats and five Republicans, argued that the Knollenberg language would prevent the EPA from providing information about the implementation of the Kyoto treaty that the Senate will need in the ratification process. Knollenberg rejects this criticism on the grounds that the agency’s information would be tainted and would not be useful to Congress. Environmentalists say the ploy of tacking the prohibition onto the appropriations bill echoes the hardline 104th Congress’ attempts to press its laissez-faire agenda in 1995. “Once again, the EPA bill has become the vehicle for moving an agenda that folks haven’t been able to do in the light of day,” says Sharon Buccino, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. According to an industry lobbyist, the key advocates for the Knollenberg legislative language were the Ford Motor Co.’s Jay Morgan, the Mobil Oil Co.’s Jim Green, and the National Mining Association’s Robert Long. None of these lobbyists returned phone calls. Automobile manufacturers opposed to Kyoto have a useful asset in lobbyist David Finnegan of the D.C. office of Chicago’s Mayer, Brown & Platt, a former clean-air staffer to Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.). Dingell, a Detroiter who champions the auto industry, supports the Knollenberg language. The utility industry boasts its own regulatory expert in lobbyist Don Pearlman of Patton Boggs, a former executive assistant to the secretaries of Interior and Energy in the Reagan administration. Pearlman is working the issue on behalf of the Climate Council, a group of major U.S. electric utilities, coal companies, and other energy interests opposed to the global warming treaty.
Update: But the pact was enacted in much of the rest of the world in 2005. And as we report this week, companies that do business outside the United States are discovering an inconvenient truth: They have to abide by the Kyoto protocol’s requirements in foreign markets. And that fact is driving more work for their lawyers. Whatever happens with U.S. policy on the treaty, there’s been a major shift in the public dialogue on global warming since this story appeared in 1998. Several states have adopted their own emissions policies, and many regulatory lawyers believe the federal government will move more aggressively on climate change issues in the coming years. In other words, get ready for another lobbying campaign.

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