Coalition Launches Campaign to Pass Climate Bill

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 8, 2009; 2:30 PM

A coalition of environmental, labor, veterans and religious groups formally launched a national lobbying campaign Tuesday aimed at mobilizing grass-roots support for passage of a Senate climate bill this fall.

The group -- dubbed Clean Energy Works -- marks perhaps the most ambitious effort yet to enact legislation that would cap greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming. The coalition has enlisted organizers in 28 key states to help build support for a cap-and-trade bill, and is scheduled to launch paid television ads this week. It also plans to bring 100 veterans to Washington this week to lobby, and has held town halls and rallies in several states.

"Public support for clean energy legislation is overwhelming," said David Di Martino, the group's spokesman. "Unfortunately, an army of special interests are doing everything they can to block comprehensive energy reform. This campaign will mobilize the voices of those millions of Americans who want to put us back in control of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet."

Until now, the environmental movement and its allies have found themselves outgunned by organizations supporting the U.S. oil, gas and coal industry when it comes to lobbying on global warming. Groups such as the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers have spent millions attacking the House-passed climate bill, sponsoring rallies and underwriting television and radio ads portraying it as a costly measure that will harm the nation's economy. NAM alone announced it was spending millions on TV ads in 13 states, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has held a series of events across the country calling for a new "Scopes Monkey Trial" where the Environmental Protection Agency would make the scientific case for human-induced climate change.

By enlisting the support of groups not traditionally associated with green issues, such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the progressive-minded Truman National Security Project -- the coalition hopes to broaden the debate over energy legislation, which faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

"We're making it clear, it's not just environmentalists talking about this," said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters. He said the messages that a cap on carbon emissions would produce jobs and protect national security "actually resonate with people, and they're both strong, solid arguments."

A July poll conducted by The Washington Post, ABC News and Stanford University indicated that Americans favor the idea of a cap-and-trade bill by a margin of 52 to 43 percent. But many senators remain wary of supporting legislation that will raise energy prices in the short term as the country is still struggling to recover economically.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company