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The Partnership for a Better Energy Future may be the first group to bring together the American Knife Manufacturers Association, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, and the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce.  

Led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, the business coalition says it wants to work with the Environmental Protection Agency, as the agency looks beyond coal in its efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Translation: Members say they’re going all out to limit the EPA's impact on their business.

The 70-plus members of the Partnership for a Better Energy Future all have one thing in common, says Karen Harbert, CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: "All of these members utilize energy."

The EPA is moving forward with regulations on coal-fired power plants. Harbert says the partnership’s members see more energy regulations coming down the line. "We recognize that and we support that," she says. "But what we aren’t seeing on the other side, at the EPA is a fair, balanced and open process."

From Harbert’s perspective, the EPA’s coal regulations have been rushed, and she thinks they’ll hurt the energy industry more than necessary. She says her members worry that broader regulations could hurt the overall economy.

That is why the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce is on the member list. "If our economy’s succeeding, people have more money and more wherewithal to travel," says the group's president, Brad Deen. "So we’ve found that what’s good for the American economy is good for tourism." 

The National Fertilizer Institute sees a big threat. "This is a bet-the-farm situation for the industry," says the insitute's president, Christopher Jahn. 

That means pooling resources to lobby both regulators and Congress. And public advocacy. The National Association of Manufacturers says the budget is in the millions, and TV ads are a possibility.  

The partnership’s members say they want to take part in a serious conversation. Pete Altman, director of the Climate and Clean Air Campaign at the Natural Resources Defense Council, isn’t buying it. "The only time when we hear from this crowd, 'Oh we really need talk this through!' is when they're afraid something might actually happen," he says.

He thinks the real goal is delay. He sees the partnership pursuing "a strategy of, 'Well let's drag this out and maybe we'll have a better president.'" If final regulations aren’t in place before President Obama’s term ends, a new president could reverse course.  

Karen Harbert from the Chamber of Commerce denies that her group simply wants to stall.  "We're not saying run out the clock," she says.  "We’re saying, take the time that is necessary to do the analysis."  


Follow Dan Weissmann at @danweissmann