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Nike is latest to swoosh out of chamber

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Kai Ryssdal: A new climate change bill was introduced in the Senate today. The lobbying over which has already started, I'm sure. One of the biggest interest groups in Washington though -- the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- has some internal problems to deal with first.

The chamber has been a critic of what Congress proposes to do about global warming. And over the past couple of weeks some high-profile members, like the energy companies PG&E and Exelon, have resigned in protest. Today, Nike joined the exit parade. From Washington, Marketplace's Steve Henn reports.


STEVE HENN: This wave of corporate defections began with PG&E, the big California utility. Brian Herzog is the company's director of Corporate Relations.

BRIAN HERZOG: Climate change is one of if not the most important issue for us at the federal level.

In a letter to the chamber, PG&E's CEO said the business group was using extreme rhetoric and obstructionist tactics in a quote "disingenuous attempt to diminish" the threats of climate change.

The chamber isn't giving interviews on this, but it released a statement yesterday saying it supports cutting emissions; it just doesn't agree with the track Congress is on.

Exelon's Betsy Moler says the chamber has been dragging its feet on climate legislation for years.

BETSY MOLER: We just don't think they are serious about getting something this Congress.

Exelon quit the group yesterday.

But James Lucier who tracks climate legislation for Capitol Alpha Partners isn't convinced this is all about altruism or saving the planet.

JAMES LUCIER: The legislation gives free carbon allowances to all electric utilities.

In the current bill, utilities like PG&E and Exelon get big subsidies to buy pollution credits. Big industrial power consumers and oil refineries don't do as well. They will have to pay to buy most of their pollution credits right from the start.

Lucier: There's absolutely no question that the economically efficient and economically rational course of affairs would be to auction 100 percent of the credit.

Lucier believes the split at the chamber is in part a fight over who will end up paying the price of cleaning up the planet.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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