Chemical Industry Front Groups Look to Undermine EPA
Obama's Green Agenda Under Attack from Group Linked to Chemical Industry
A secretive group linked to a leading European chemical company has
joined the campaign to defeat Barack Obama's green agenda, taking the
fight beyond the traditional players - the big oil and coal firms - the Guardian has learned.
previously unknown Coalition for Responsible Regulation Inc (CRR) is at
the forefront of a strategy to strip the Obama administration of its
powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions should Congress fail to act
on climate change.
group, which refuses to disclose its complete membership and which does
not have a website, has joined more than a dozen states and a host of
industry groups in 17 legal challenges to the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency.
connection to the chemical firm Solvay suggests opposition to action on
global warming, once spearheaded by big oil, is spreading to other
industries that will also be affected by proposals to reduce emissions
of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases.
Several of the
petitioners against the EPA are household names, such Peabody Energy Corp, America's biggest coal mining
company, and the Chamber of Commerce, which has led opposition to Obama's
climate agenda. They also include prominent rightwing thinktanks.
some of those launching legal challenges against the EPA have appeared
as if from nowhere - such as the CRR.
Court documents filed in
Texas identify Richard Hogan, chief executive of Solvay's wholly owned
US subsidiary, as one of three directors of the CRR, the lead petitioner
on the legal challenge to the EPA's authority to act on greenhouse gas
emissions. The filings give Solvay's Houston office as Hogan's address.
The coalition was apparently created to block Obama's efforts to deal
with climate change.
The filings with the Texas authorities reveal
the coalition was founded on 10 November last year - a day after the
EPA announced its scientists had determined that greenhouse gases were a
public danger. The group filed its challenge to the EPA on 23 December.
Groten, an attorney for the coalition, said it plans to file at least
three more legal challenges against the EPA, which could tie up the
agency in paperwork.
Such challenges to the EPA have intensified
since last November when the agency signalled it was preparing to
regulate greenhouse gas emissions, a measure widely seen as a backstop
in case Congress failed to pass climate change legislation.
least 15 state legislatures are now considering motions casting
doubt on climate science or seeking to overturn the EPA's authority
to regulate emissions. Republicans in Congress have filed separate
resolutions to set aside the EPA's finding about the dangers of
greenhouse gases, and the Senate may reportedly seek to strip the EPA of
powers in a climate bill expected to be rolled out next week.
documents identify the CCR as a non-profit membership corporation "for
the purpose of promoting social welfare, particularly to ensure that the
clean air act is properly applied to greenhouse gases. Its members
include business and trade associations engaged in activities that would
likely be subject to regulation under the clean air act."
court documents list six companies and trade associations representing
mining and beef interests among its members - but not Solvay.
said there were more members - individual as well as corporate. He
refused to identify members beyond those listed on the court petition,
but compared the group to the Sierra Club, the popular grassroots
conservation network. "Those who want to support its objectives
contribute financially to it," he said.
Carrying the analogy
further, Groten said membership was determined by donation. "One becomes
a member of the organisation just as one becomes a member of the Sierra
Club by donated money to it."
Solvay Chemical's connection to the legal challenges seems
at odds with the company's stated commitment to sustainable development
on its website. "We commit ourselves to take into account, in a way that
is comprehensive and integrated in all our activities, the triple
demand of economic, societal and environmental sustainability," the
statement says.Mark Wheeler, communications director for Solvay in America,
denied the company was a member of CCR.
Kert Davies, research
director for Greenpeace, said Brussels-based Solvay produces sulphur hexafluoride (or SF6), used for
industrial cleaning, but also an extremely potent greenhouse gas. Each
kilogram of SF6 produces an atmospheric
warming effect equivalent to nearly 24,000kg of carbon dioxide. The
EPA proposed last year to begin regulating SF6.
enveloping the CRR is typical of the efforts to block regulation of
greenhouse gases, according to Greenpeace, which has spent years
tracking the behind-the-scenes efforts by oil companies such as Exxon and Koch Industries to deny the science of
Also among the EPA's opponents this time around is
the Alliance for Natural Climate Change Science. That organisation
appears to exist only as a Fort Worth post office box on the original
court filings, which list Alexis Hathaway and William Orr as contacts.
a Colorado businessman, was convicted in 2008 on several counts of
defrauding public funds and private investors for a project purporting
to produce an alternative fuel that received a $3.6 million grant from
However, subsequent filings link the legal challenge to
Bonner Cohen, a fellow of the Committe
for Constructive Tomorrow, a well-known climate sceptic group.
"[Orr] is no longer affiliated with the organisation," Cohen said.
Kert Davies said the link between the CRR and Solvay could be an
indicator that the opposition to climate change regulation is spreading
to new sectors of the economy. "The industrial bloc is powerfully
organised and rich. They have all the tools and all the lawyers and they
are going to do all they can to stop carbon regulation," he said."It is
going to take a generation to really regulate greenhouse gas emissions
in this country, just as it has taken a generation to get action on
Analysis: Why target the EPA?
EPA has become a prime target for politicians and industries seeking to
slow down or block moves to curb greenhouse gas emissions in America.
The fiercest opponents of the EPA accuse the agency of trying to put in
place a top-down regulatory regime that would stifle economic growth and
monitor every puff of human breath for carbon dioxide. But the Obama
administration says the EPA has no choice but to put in place a
regulatory regime, should Congress fail to pass a climate change law.
The supreme court ruled two years ago that the agency had a duty and
authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. So the EPA could open
itself up to a whole slew of new court challenges if it does not act on