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Clean Power Plan

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  • Here's what you need to know about the National Black Chamber of Commerce

    EPA chief Andrew Wheeler to announce major environmental rollback alongside fossil-fuel-funded front group

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER

    On Thursday, the Trump administration is expected to announce a regulatory rollback that will make it easier to build new coal-fired plants by eliminating Obama-era rules requiring such plants to include carbon-capture technology. Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is scheduled to make the announcement alongside Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), a minority business front group that has received funding from fossil fuel interests and other corporate sources, including ExxonMobil and Koch Industries.

    Alford and the organization he runs have long teamed up with conservatives and business interests to fight regulations that would protect and clean up the environment. A 2017 Bloomberg investigation described the NBCC as “a shoestring operation, run by a husband-and-wife team." But despite its small size, the group provides outsized value to corporations and industry groups. The NBCC has been criticized by a number of prominent environmental justice leaders and organizations, including Green For All, GreenLatinos, and WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

    Here's a quick overview of NBCC activity on behalf of polluters.

    NBCC campaigned against the Clean Power Plan

    The Clean Power Plan, put in place by the Obama administration in 2015, aimed to curb carbon emissions from existing power plants, part of a larger effort to fight climate change. According to Obama's EPA, it also would have improved public health by cutting air pollution. Civil rights leaders, environmental justice groups, and environmental activists successfully pushed the agency to make sure the rule addressed many of the environmental and economic concerns of minority and low-income communities.

    But the NBCC opposed the Clean Power Plan while claiming to be speaking on behalf of African-Americans. The group commissioned and promoted a flawed study that falsely claimed the plan would disproportionately harm minorities. The study was swiftly debunked. And yet Alford became a central figure in a disinformation campaign backed by fossil-fuel interests. He placed anti-Clean Power Plan op-eds in at least seven newspapers and saw right-wing outlets echo and amplify his discredited assertions.

    NBCC's debunked study found new life in the Trump administration. When the EPA, under Wheeler's leadership, proposed to replace the Clean Power Plan with a weaker substitute, the White House cited the NBCC study in its talking points. 

    NBCC took part in a deceptive campaign against solar energy

    In 2016, the NBCC was part of Consumers for Smart Solar, a utility-backed and Koch-backed astroturf group that campaigned on behalf of a deceptive ballot initiative in Florida. The initiative was designed to appear pro-solar, but it actually would have slowed the growth of rooftop solar while protecting the utilities from competition. Voters ended up rejecting the measure. 

    Alford fought EPA’s rule to limit smog pollution

    After the EPA moved in 2015 to impose limits on ozone, a component of smog, Alford went on a speaking tour to convince minority audiences that the EPA’s rules would harm them economically, echoing a message broadcast by the NBCC’s corporate donors. When confronted with evidence that smog disproportionately hurts minority and low-income communities, Alford said it was a “farce.”

    NBCC backed a climate denier's effort to discredit carbon pricing

    Earlier this year, NBCC joined right-wing organizations supporting an anti-carbon tax resolution proposed by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), a climate denier. Alford signed a letter supporting the resolution, listing his name alongside far-right figures like Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

    Alford: "Coal is essential to our way of living"

    Alford is on the board of the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy, also known as Energy Fairness, a self-described “coalition of working people, business owners, environmentalists, and trade organizations who are fighting for fair, responsible energy policies.” In actuality, the group and a partner organization, Working People for Fair Energy, have been closely aligned with utility companies fighting coal-ash regulation, according to a 2010 investigation by the Institute for Southern Studies.

    In October 2016, Alford went on a tour of coal mines in Alabama that was sponsored by the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy. In a blog post about the tour that he published on PACE’s website, Alford wrote, “Coal is essential to our way of living. If some politicians and activists think they can ‘kill coal’ they are terribly mistaken.”

    Alford and Wheeler are two of a kind

    Alford and the NBCC have consistently worked against the interests of minority communities and working families to advance a pro-fossil fuel agenda. Like Wheeler did when he was a lobbyist, Alford has cashed oil, gas, and coal company checks for years. So it is fitting that they will be standing together to announce the Trump administration's latest assault on our environment and climate.

  • Trump admin claims replacing Clean Power Plan will help minorities. That’s not true.

    White House talking points promote debunked study from National Black Chamber of Commerce, an industry front group

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER

    The Trump administration has proposed a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, and it's defending its proposal by citing a thoroughly debunked and discredited 2015 study from an industry-funded front group, the National Black Chamber of Commerce. 

    The Clean Power Plan (CPP), finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Barack Obama in 2015, called for reducing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants while increasing the use of renewable energy. The Trump administration intends to revoke that plan and replace it with the Affordable Clean Energy rule, would allow much more pollution from coal plants.  

    Trump administration cites figures from debunked 2015 study

    The Trump administration's draft talking points in support of the EPA's replacement plan, obtained by E&E News, cite a debunked study commissioned by the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), a fossil-fuel-funded group that purports to represent black businesses. The talking points claim that the Clean Power Plan "would have hurt minorities and senior citizens disproportionally," and goes on to list statistics that came directly from the NBCC report:

    According to Harry Alford, President of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, CPP would increase Black poverty by 23 percent and Hispanic poverty by 26 percent. It would result in cumulative job losses of 7 million for Blacks and nearly 12 million for Hispanics in 2035.

    But the NBCC report was thoroughly debunked after it was released in 2015.

    Fact-checkers exposed serious problems with the NBCC study

    The nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists outlined many of the NBCC study’s flaws in a blog post in 2015. It explained that the study, which was conducted by Management Information Services Inc. (MISI), was itself based on other studies that had a variety of problems (emphasis in original):

    [H]ere’s the first of the study’s fatal flaws: it depends, as it explicitly says (p. 21), on the findings of seven other studies, which it lists. But those seven include:

    • Three studies that came out before the EPA published the draft CPP, meaning they don’t actually study the CPP as proposed—even though that’s the supposed focus of the NBCC/MISI analysis
    • One that was just (self-described) “preliminary analysis” from the United Mine Workers of America, a group you’d be hard-pressed to characterize as an unbiased voice in this debate
    • Three other studies funded by other fossil fuel interests who oppose the Clean Power Plan

    Two of those studies were the focus of a recent UCS webinar showing how such studies use bad assumptions and get used to sow confusion and spread disinformation about the CPP.

    One of those, done by IHS on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is the report most cited in this new work, even though it was one of those that came out before the draft CPP, and even though there was, as the Chamber itself admitted, “a big difference” between what they’d modeled and what EPA put forth (which the new study doesn’t acknowledge).

    The flaws in the study by Energy Ventures Analysis (EVA) for Peabody Energy (the largest U.S. coal company) are also clear. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions has pointed out that, unlike other studies, EVA’s didn’t even show a business-as-usual case, meaning that any CPP results were floating in a vacuum, without reference to a base case of shifting energy costs and other economic factors.

    Fact-checkers at PolitiFact and The Washington Post had both highlighted severe problems with the 2014 U.S. Chamber of Commerce study that was a main source for NBCC's study. From a 2014 PolitiFact analysis:

    [The U.S. Chamber] study wrongly assumed the administration would set a benchmark of reducing carbon emissions by 42 percent before 2030. The regulations released June 2 actually put forward a 30 percent reduction within that timeframe. The chamber itself told PolitiFact its estimates are not based on the goals as announced.

    For that same reason, The Washington Post's fact-checking team gave Republican politicians who cited the Chamber of Commerce study in 2014 a "Four Pinocchio" rating, its lowest.

    Separate fact-checks cast doubt on another study that the NBCC report relied on, this one conducted by NERA Economic Consulting in 2014. The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote that the NERA study "falsely inflates the cost of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan by denying energy efficiency’s proven ability to save consumers money," and went on to explain that the study used "a 2012 study that has been repeatedly discredited" to justify its inflated cost estimates. The Washington Post's fact-checking team also raised serious questions about the NERA study.

    The NERA study was funded by industries that had much to gain from stymieing the Clean Power Plan, including fossil fuel interests. Among the commissioning groups were the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the National Mining Association.

    Clean Power Plan would have benefited Black, Latinx, and other minority communities

    Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, became a central figure in a disinformation campaign backed by fossil-fuel interests because he was willing to assert that the Obama EPA’s Clean Power Plan would harm communities of color. He placed anti-Clean Power Plan op-eds in at least seven newspapers and saw right-wing outlets echo and amplify his discredited assertions.

    In fact, the EPA under Obama took steps to ensure that the Clean Power Plan addressed many of the environmental and economic concerns of minority and low-income communities, after pressure was applied by civil rights leaders, environmental justice groups, and environmental activists.

    When the NBCC report came out in 2015, a coalition of environmental justice groups, including Green For All and Voces Verdes, challenged its claims that the Clean Power Plan would hurt minority communities. The groups argued instead that the plan would in fact help marginalized and low-income Americans:

    The report alleges that the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan will harm African American and Hispanic families, when in fact findings from numerous independent organizations show the plan will actually benefit communities.

    In reality, the Clean Power Plan will prevent asthma and other pollution-related illnesses, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, and save families money on their utility bills. Low income and minority Americans, who are most often the hardest hit when it comes to the effects of climate change, will benefit substantially.

    Recently the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) produced a report reaffirming and further outlining these benefits. The report also refutes many of the myths asserted by the NBCC, known to [be] funded by special interests groups seeking to preserve the bottom line for dirty energy companies.

    Trump administration's Affordable Clean Energy rule will harm minority communities

    Environmental justice activists point out that the Trump administration's new plan is the one that poses a real threat to communities of color. The advocacy group GreenLatinos issued this statement from its president and CEO, Mark Magaña:

    The Trump Administration continues to put the health of the Latino community and all Americans at risk by gutting the Clean Power Plan, the first and only federal limit on carbon pollution from power plants — a major source of the pollution that exacerbates climate change — which protects public health and promotes climate change solutions.

    The Latino community is hit first and worst by climate change and we suffer disproportionate public health effects with 40% of Latinos living within 30 miles of a power plant. The stakes are too high, with Latinx children being 40% more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino white children.

    Today, as we continue to witness these severe weather patterns and devastating impacts of carbon pollution on public health, the Trump Administration is moving to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, endangering the health of our communities and undermine the transition to cleaner and safer renewable energy sources.

    GreenLatinos rejects the efforts by the Trump Administration and Acting Administrator Wheeler as they disregard the overwhelming support for increasing efforts to protect our air quality.

    Other environmental justice advocates also spoke out against the Trump EPA's Affordable Clean Energy rule. “They’re really putting people’s lives in danger,” Mustafa Santiago Ali, a senior vice president at the Hip Hop Caucus and former EPA advisor on environmental justice, told Earther.