The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Phone: (202) 588-1000

Climate Change Legislation Requires Significant Changes to Protect Consumers and Environment

Leading National Public Interest Groups Push for Senate Action to Fix Bill


A coalition of 25 leading national consumer groups and grassroots
environmental organizations has formed to urge the Senate to improve
sweeping climate change legislation passed by the House of
Representatives by stripping out the corporate giveaways and including
strong protections for struggling energy consumers and the environment.

In a letter sent today to
the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which is still
crafting the Senate's version of the bill, the groups say that 100
percent of the carbon credits should be auctioned and revenues should
be used for direct consumer relief as proposed in February by President
Obama. To the extent that the committee builds on the House-passed
bill, the groups, which include AARP, Chesapeake Climate Action Network
(CCAN), Public Citizen, National Consumer Law Center and TURN, are
calling on the Senate to establish a stronger system of consumer

Thanks to backroom deals with polluting industries and corporate
lobbyists, the current version of the American Clean Energy and
Security Act is a loser for the environment and for consumers, said
Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen's Energy Program. The House
version would give away 85 percent of the carbon credits for free to
utilities, oil refiners and manufacturers. While consumers are offered
no protection from price volatility or rate hikes in this version,
industrial energy users secured protections to guarantee their bottom

"Powerful interests got special protections in the climate
legislation, leaving households inadequately protected from high
prices," Slocum said. "We are calling for equitable treatment for
families and no windfall profits for corporate interests."

Current accountability measures in the bill are inadequate to ensure
that electric and natural gas local distribution companies use the
proceeds from their carbon credit auctions to benefit consumers by
lowering rates for low-income and middle-class households and by
investing in sustainable energy for the future. As written, the bill
will result in windfall profits for many large polluters and delay the
country's transition to cleaner energy technologies.

"AARP is committed to improving the health of our environment so
that all people, no matter their age, can enjoy healthy communities,"
said Elaine Ryan, vice president of government relations for AARP.
"While we want to see a bill that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, we
are acutely concerned for the well-being of middle, low and
fixed-income individuals who would be negatively impacted by potential
utility rate increases. Research and experience have shown us time and
time again that an individual's inability to afford utility costs can
have catastrophic and life-threatening results. This is why AARP urges
the Senate to improve this bill and provide stronger cost containments
for consumers."

Added Olivia Wein, staff attorney National Consumer Law Center,
"Millions of families already struggle to balance their budgets or
survive on fixed incomes. They can't afford to pay the higher energy
costs that will result from cap and trade. The Senate needs to clearly
direct utilities, which have been given free emission allowances, to
use the resulting revenue to cut the utility bills of residential

"Climate policy is consumer policy in America," said Mike Tidwell
director of CCAN. "Unfortunately, the House version of the climate bill
was a sweet deal for Big Oil and Big Coal but not for average
consumers. The Senate needs to improve the House approach by rebating
carbon permit money directly and without games to voters who want both
clean energy and fairness for consumers."

Mark Toney, executive director of TURN, said, "Even David needed a
slingshot - and ratepayers need a consumer protection fund to stand a
chance against the deep pockets of the energy industry."

The groups involved in this effort include: AARP, Consumer
Federation of America, National Consumer Law Center, Public Citizen,
Clean Air Watch, National Community Action Foundation, Consumer
Watchdog, Alliance for Affordable Energy, Chesapeake Climate Action
Network, Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Citizens for
Pennsylvania's Future, Coastal Conservation League, Edgemont
Neighborhood Coalition of Dayton, Faiths United for Sustainable Energy,
Fresh Energy, Jews of the Earth, KyotoUSA, Montana Environmental
Information Center, New Energy Economy, NY Public Interest Research
Group, Ohio Citizen Action, Pennsylvania Interfaith Climate Change
Campaign, Public Policy Virginia Inc., Texas Climate Emergency Campaign
and TURN.

READ the coalition letter.

MORE information.

Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.

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