More than 770 companies and interest groups hired an estimated 2,340 lobbyists during the past year to influence climate legislation on Capitol Hill, a Center for Public Integrity report shows.
The huge hiring increase means climate lobbyists on K Street seeking to influence President Barack Obama’s administration to carve out of a piece of the $787-billion stimulus package for the clients they represent now outnumber lawmakers in the U.S.Congress by a margin of more than 4 to 1.
The number of lobbyists in the federal policy on climate change business began its upward climb in 2008, analysis of Senate lobbying disclosure forms shows. The trend took off just prior to Obama taking office.
Obama, a strong supporter of fossil fuel emissions legislation, advocates drastically curbing greenhouse gases to slow the effects of climate change. He argues the push “will generate green jobs and actually boost rather than kill the economy,” the Baltimore Sun reports.
Since then, climate change quickly has become the number one growth industry in Washington. Lobbyists –– in great demand because climate change legislation will be complex and vital to companies’ bottom lines –– are lining up to represent big business and energy industry interests that may be affected by any legislative change.
According to The Chronicle, employment surges in Texas alone have been attributed to the growth in the climate change lobbying industry. Texas’s energy industry has a huge stake in any federal legislation that would be made law.
“Everyone has a stake in any final legislation,” Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston tells The Chronicle.
“Interest groups from all viewpoints — environmentalists, consumer protection organizations, and business interests — have been increasingly requesting meetings with members (of Congress) and staff to relay their concerns.”
Critics, however, maintain the cap-and-trade approach to climate change favored by Obama would significantly increase the costs of doing business for energy companies. They argue against requiring businesses to choose between either lowering emissions, or buying permits for higher emissions from the federal government or other businesses.
“The whole purpose of climate change legislation is to make current energy more expensive so that new forms of energy production can compete with it,” Jeffrey Holmstead, a lobbyist with Houston-based Bracewell & Giuliani, tells The Chronicle.
“For the energy sector, that is a very substantial increase in cost.”
Since Obama’s election, hundreds of millions of people have joined together demanding action on climate change. In Hollywood, a plethora of high-profile liberal stars have come out in support of the global warming debate, including Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick and Alanis Morissette.
Action on a climate bill appears likely this year.
House Energy Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., assures The Sun his committee will have a climate bill ready to vote on by May 25. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, adds she wants to see legislation in effect by the end of the year.
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