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Big Coal makes deceptive phone calls on climate change legislation

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Next month the U.S. Senate is expected to take up the Lieberman-Warner bill on climate change (S. 2191), legislation that would create a federally controlled market for carbon pollution by allowing industries to buy and sell emission allowances.

In the meantime, a lobby group for the coal industry is making phone calls encouraging people to oppose the measure -- but it's being less than forthcoming about who's behind those calls.

Pete MacDowell, an activist with the N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, got one of the calls this morning. The woman on the other end identified herself as being from Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, an organization formed in 2000 to build support for coal-based electricity. Last month, ABEC merged with the Center for Energy and Economic Development -- an Alexandria, Va.-based group that represents the interests of coal producers and utility companies -- to form the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

Here's MacDowell's account of the call:

They wanted to add my name to a fax to Senators Lieberman and Warner asking them leave it up to the states to decide how to respond to climate change rather than drive up our utility rates. When I asked who ABEC was, I was told that they were individuals concerned about utility rates. When I asked if they were an environmental group, the answer was "yes." When I asked whether they were related to the utilities, the answer was "No." When I asked to find out more about them I was directed to their website. When I told the lady that they were the coal lobby, they said that they did believe in "clean coal." When I told the lady that the information she had previously given me was fraudulent, she said she would tell her supervisor.

As MacDowell notes, it's fraudulent for ABEC/ACCCE to claim they're not related to the utilities. Even the groups' own www.americaspower.org website acknowledges their relationship to coal-fired electrical utilities (bold emphasis mine):

AmericasPower.org is sponsored by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), which is a partnership of the industries involved in producing electricity from coal.

That website also includes a list of ACCCE member organizations -- among them major utility companies including Duke Energy and Progress Energy of North Carolina, Luminant of Texas, and Mirant of Georgia.

Expect to be hearing more from ACCCE in the coming weeks, as the organization today announced that it will be focusing on the upcoming Lieberman-Warner debate. Besides making phone calls, the group will also run print ads against the measure.

For an analysis of the Lieberman-Warner legislation from the Union of Concerned Scientists, click here. For more information on ABEC, read its SourceWatch.org entry.

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