National Black Chamber Of Commerce Joins Oil Industry's Op-Ed Campaign Against EPA Climate Plan

Exxon-Funded Outfit Peddles Debunked Studies To Dispute Clean Power Plan's Benefit For Blacks And Hispanics

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER & DENISE ROBBINS

Like Americans for Prosperity, the Beacon Hill Institute, and the State Policy Network before it, the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) is the latest oil industry front group to run a deceptive op-ed campaign against the EPA's climate change plan, with NBCC president Harry C. Alford alleging in newspapers across the country that the Clean Power Plan will impose "economic hardship" on blacks and Hispanics. None of these newspapers disclosed that the NBCC has received $1 million from the ExxonMobil Foundation, and the op-eds themselves rely on climate science denial and thoroughly debunked industry-linked studies in an attempt to dismiss the financial and health benefits the Clean Power Plan will provide to black and Hispanic communities.

Newspapers Publish NBCC Op-Eds Attacking EPA Climate Plan Without Disclosing NBCC's Oil Industry Funding

Seven Newspapers Have Published Op-Eds Attacking EPA's Clean Power Plan By National Black Chamber Of Commerce President. Nearly identical op-eds written by Harry C. Alford, president and CEO of NBCC, have been published in seven newspapers in Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and West Virginia. In the op-eds, Alford claims that the EPA's Clean Power Plan -- which will place the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants -- will impose an "economic hardship" on minority communities. Several of the papers published headlines for the op-ed that cast the EPA against minorities; a typical example was the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's headline: "The EPA vs. Pennsylvania's minorities." [The Des Moines Register, 6/23/15; The Buffalo News, 6/24/15; Tulsa World, 6/22/15; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 6/24/15; The Santa Fe New Mexican, 6/22/15; Centre Daily Times, 6/22/15; Charleston Daily Mail, 6/22/15]

Alford Touted Recent NBCC Study To Claim EPA Plan Will Harm Hispanics And Blacks. In his op-eds, Alford extensively cites "a new study commissioned by my organization, the National Black Chamber of Commerce," and summarizes the results by saying the Clean Power Plan "will leave minority communities with disproportionately fewer jobs, lower incomes and higher poverty than whites." [NBCC, accessed 6/25/15; The Des Moines Register, 6/23/15]

What The Newspapers Failed To Disclose: NBCC Has Received $1 Million From ExxonMobil Foundation. In each newspaper that ran an op-ed, Alford was identified only as "the president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce." While NBCC does not list its funders or corporate members on its website, the ExxonMobil Foundation's annual reports show that the oil giant has provided funding for NBCC each year since 2003. The ExxonMobil Foundation gave NBCC $75,000 in 2014, $125,000 in 2013, and a total of $1 million since 2003. ExxonMobil is one of the world's largest producers of industrial carbon emissions and has a vested interest in opposing limits on carbon pollution as a way of addressing climate change. [ExxonMobil Worldwide Contributions and Community Investments, 2014; 2013; ExxonSecrets.org, accessed 6/25/15; Union of Concerned Scientists, accessed 6/25/15]

NBCC Study Relied On Thoroughly Debunked Studies Tied To Fossil Fuel Industry

Union Of Concerned Scientists: NBCC Study Relies On Studies Published Before Release Of CPP Or Funded By Industry Opponents. As the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has noted, the NBCC study "explicitly says" that it depends on "the findings of seven other studies." According to UCS, those seven studies include (emphasis original):

  • 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 [UCS, 6/12/15]

NBCC Study Relied On Debunked Industry-Linked Studies By U.S. Chamber Of Commerce And NERA Economic Consulting. The NBCC study, which was prepared by Management Information Services, Inc. (MISI), states on page 21: "To estimate the likely effects of the EPA related regulations on low income groups and minorities, we used the findings of studies conducted in recent years of the impacts of carbon restrictions on the U.S. economy, jobs, and energy markets." Among the studies the NBCC "utilized" were two fossil fuel industry-linked studies that have been thoroughly debunked by media fact-checkers: An IHS study commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a study by NERA Economic Consulting. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Board of Directors includes officials from ConocoPhillips, Alliance Resource Partners, CONSOL Energy, and Southern Company, and many of Chamber's largest donors are fossil fuel companies. The NERA study was commissioned by fossil fuel interests that include the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy (ACCCE), the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the National Mining Association. [NBCC, June 2015; U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 5/28/14; U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors, accessed 6/25/15; Center for Public Integrity, 1/16/14; NERA Economic Consulting, October 2014]

U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Study Was Deemed "False" By Media Fact-Checkers. PolitiFact noted that the Chamber acknowledged its "estimates are not based on the [EPA] goals as announced," and determined that the IHS/Chamber numbers were "false." The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog similarly noted that the Chamber had admitted its figures "do not apply at all to the EPA rule as written," and awarded "four Pinocchios" to Republican officials who cited the IHS/Chamber study to criticize the EPA. [Politifact, 6/2/14; The Washington Post6/3/14]

The Washington Post's Fact Checker: It Is "Misleading" To Cite The NERA Study's Figures. When Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) cited the NERA study to claim that the Clean Power Plan "will result in double-digit electricity prices in 43 states," The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog responded that Inhofe's claim was "misleading" because the study's numbers "are on the high end of a range of cost impacts, which are mere projections at this point." The Fact Checker noted that supporters of the Clean Power Plan say the NERA study "inflates the cost of energy efficiency programs" and "ignores long-term benefits of energy efficiency programs that ultimately could drive actual energy bills down." It concluded: "A lot of the costs can be driven down by state, local and regional policymakers, and some of them already are working with the EPA to figure out cost-effective plans." [The Washington Post3/13/15]

UCS: NERA "Falsely Inflates Costs." The Union of Concerned Scientists stated that the NERA study "falsely inflates the cost" of the Clean Power Plan by "denying energy efficiency's proven ability to save consumers money." UCS went on to explain that the NERA study uses "a 2012 study that has been repeatedly discredited" to justify its inflated cost estimates. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 11/14/14]

NBCC Study Also Relied On Climate Science Denial To Dismiss The Social Cost Of Carbon

NBCC Study Also Cited Paper Claiming Benefits Of Carbon Pollution Far Outweigh Costs. Page 92 of the NBCC study states that MISI derived its estimates of the Clean Power Plan's "impacts on incomes and jobs" by using "the proprietary MISI model," which is based on a January 2014 MISI paper prepared for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity titled, "The Social Costs of Carbon? No, the Social Benefits of Carbon." That paper, which asserted that "CO2 is the basis of life on Earth" and has "enabled the high quality of life currently taken for granted," sought to challenge the social cost of carbon (SCC), which measures the economic damages associated with increased carbon dioxide emissions and was used by the EPA to estimate the Clean Power Plan's climate-related benefits. While the EPA -- with input from economic experts and other federal agencies -- has estimated that the SCC is approximately $40 per metric ton of carbon pollution, the MISI/ACCCE paper claimed that "the current benefits [of CO2] clearly outweigh any hypothesized costs by, literally, orders of magnitude: The benefit-cost (B-C) ratios range up to more than 200-to-1." [NBCC, June 2015; MISI/ACCCE, January 2014; EPA Fact Sheet: Social Cost of Carbon, November 2013]

UCS: MISI/ACCCE Paper On Social Cost Of Carbon Is "Fossil Fuel Fiction." In a fact sheet titled, "Climate Science vs. Fossil Fuel Fiction," the Union of Concerned Scientists noted that, contrary to the claims in the MISI/ACCCE paper, which were echoed by Peabody Energy, "numerous economists and scientists agree that over the long term the costs of carbon pollution clearly outweigh the benefits of continuing to ramp up emissions." [Union of Concerned Scientists, March 2015]

The Guardian's Graham Readfearn: MISI/ACCCE Paper "Relies On Climate Science Denial." The Guardian's Graham Readfearn also critiqued the MISI/ACCCE paper shortly after it was published, writing on DeSmog blog that it is "one long misrepresentation of the impact of coal on the planet, from its effects on growing food crops to raising sea levels to fuelling risk-laden climate change." Readfearn added:

One of the most popular debating points for climate science deniers is to tell you that carbon dioxide is simply food for plants.

The ACCCE report takes this well worn and simplistic climate science denial talking point and pushes it to its extreme. While it's true that some plants generally grow quicker when more carbon dioxide is available, this is grossly simplistic and ignores the impacts of human-caused climate change on flooding and prolonged drought. [DeSmog blog, 2/6/14]

NRDC And EDF Also Criticized MISI/ACCCE Paper For Dismissing The Social Costs Of Carbon Pollution. The Natural Resource Defense Council's (NRDC) Laurie Johnson noted that the MISI/ACCCE paper is based on the false premise that energy is the "one thing" that creates societal wealth and that the paper "den[ies] that carbon pollution threatens every component of our health and economy." And the Environmental Defense Fund's Gernot Wagner and Jeremy Proville penned an open letter responding to Dr. Roger Bezdek, the lead author of the MISI/ACCCE study, which noted in part:

[E]very ton of coal--like every barrel of oil--causes more in external damages than it adds value to GDP. The costs faced by those deciding how much fossil fuel to burn are much lower than the costs faced by society.

[...]

Your claim that what you call "social benefits" of coal dwarf the costs is wrong in theory and practice. In theory, because they are private benefits. As a matter of practice because these (private) benefits are very much included in the calculations that give us the social costs of coal. What you call out as the social benefits of coal use are already captured by these calculations. They are part of economic output.

Our indicators for GDP do a pretty good job capturing all these private benefits of economic activity. Where they fail is with the social costs. Hence the need to calculate the social cost of carbon pollution in the first place. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 1/26/14; Environmental Defense Fund, 2/4/14]

NBCC Study Condemned By Minority Group Leaders

Hispanic, Black Leaders Criticized NBCC Report As "Junk Science," "Scare Tactics," And More. A group of Hispanic and black leaders responded to the NBCC report, criticizing its flaws and asserting that the Clean Power Plan will benefit minority communities. Van Jones, the founder of Green For All, said NBCC is pushing out "junk science and junk economics in order to try to turn communities of color against the most important clean air protections of our generation." Adrianna Quintero, founder of Voces Verdes, said NBCC is using "inflammatory scare tactics" to mislead consumers "to go against their own best interests and support the multimillion dollar polluter industry that poisons our air and worsens climate change." Mark Magana, founder of GreenLatinos, called the report a "sham study" that is "rife with misinformation." And Rev. Lennox Yearwod Jr., president and CEO of Hip Hop Caucus, said the report is "full of dangerous lies promoted by the fossil fuel industry." [Voces Verdes, 6/11/15]

Clean Power Plan Will Actually Bring Health, Economic Benefits To Low-Income And Minority Communities

NRDC: Low-Income Communities In U.S. Helped By Clean Energy Shift. A recent report from the NRDC found that low-income communities in the United States face disproportionate health impacts from fossil fuel pollution, and that shifting to low carbon energy sources can lessen these impacts:

[T]he shift to clean energy offers a chance to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, while lessening the toll that dirty fossil fuels are currently wreaking on some of our most vulnerable communities.

[...]

Nationally, the Clean Power Plan's efforts to curtail carbon pollution will help prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths, 150,000 asthma attacks in children, 3,300 heart attacks, 2,800 hospital admissions, and 490,000 missed work/school days annually in the United States. A sizable impact will be felt by those with the least resources and least access to quality healthcare -- low- and fixed-income Americans; in part because low-income communities are stuck living closer to dirty power plants. [NRDC, accessed 4/29/15]

EPA Administrator McCarthy: "Communities Of Color" Are Hardest Hit By Climate Change. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote in an op-ed that "communities of color and low-income Americans are the hardest hit" by climate change and cited statistics to show why African-Americans in particular could benefit from the EPA's plan to reduce carbon pollution:

[W]hile climate change hurts everyone, communities of color and low-income Americans are the hardest hit.

[...]

Although we limit pollutants like mercury, sulfur and arsenic, there are currently no limits on carbon pollution from power plants, our nation's largest source. That's not smart, it's not safe, and President Barack Obama has determined that it needs to stop. Close to 3 out of 4 African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant, and African-American children have an 80 percent higher rate of asthma and are nearly three times more likely to die from asthma than their white peers. [The Root, 7/29/14]

National Climate Assessment: New Hispanic Immigrants Are "More Vulnerable To Changes In Climate." The 2014 National Climate Assessment stated that new Hispanic immigrants are "more vulnerable to changes in climate," due to "[l]ow wages, unstable work, language barriers, and inadequate housing," all of which are "critical obstacles to managing climate risk." [National Climate Assessment, May 2014]

EPA: Clean Power Plan Benefits Will Dwarf Costs. The EPA found that by 2030, the annual cost of complying with the Clean Power Plan will be $7.3-8.8 billion, whereas its annual climate and health benefits will be worth $55 to $93 billion. [EPA, accessed 3/25/15]

EPA: Clean Power Plan Will Result In Lower Electricity Bills Due To Energy Efficiency Gains. According to the EPA, the Clean Power Plan will ultimately reduce consumers' electricity bills due to gains in energy efficiency:

States, cities, businesses and homeowners have been working for years to increase energy efficiency and reduce growth in demand for electricity. EPA projects that the Clean Power Plan will continue - and accelerate - this trend. Nationally, this means that, in 2030 when the plan is fully implemented, electricity bills would be expected to be roughly 8 percent lower than they would been without the actions in state plans. That would save Americans about $8 on an average monthly residential electricity bill, savings they wouldn't see without the states' efforts under this rule. [EPA.gov, Fact Sheet, accessed 5/1/15]

NBCC's Op-Ed Campaign Follows Similar Attacks On The Clean Power Plan From Fossil Fuel Front Groups

Americans For Prosperity State Directors Are Running Op-Ed Campaign Attacking Clean Power Plan. At least 16 newspapers across the country have published nearly identical op-eds from state leaders of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which misleadingly cite statistics on electricity prices while calling for state legislatures to fight back against the Clean Power Plan. Every newspaper Media Matters reviewed except one failed to disclose the group's ties to the oil industry: AFP was founded, and continues to be largely funded, by the oil billionaire Koch brothers. [Media Matters, 3/25/15]

Beacon Hill Institute And State Policy Network Also Seeking To Undermine EPA Climate Plan With Op-Ed Campaign. The Beacon Hill Institute (BHI) partnered with members of the State Policy Network (SPN) to jointly produce sham studies and op-eds that dramatically inflate the Clean Power Plan's projected cost without even analyzing the EPA's actual proposal. As of April 13, 11 newspapers in four states had published op-eds written mostly by executives from SPN groups or state legislators, but none of the op-eds disclosed the fossil fuel industry funding behind them. Both BHI and SPN have financial ties to the Koch brothers, and the reports themselves were funded by a group run by Richard Berman, a corporate PR executive who has solicited millions in funding from the oil and gas industry. [Media Matters, 4/13/15]

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