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May 3 — Near-impossible odds of legislative success and upcoming oral arguments in federal appeals court haven't deterred entities from continuing aggressive lobbying of Congress on the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan.
More than 130 entities reported lobbying on the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's domestic efforts on climate change during the first quarter of 2016, according to disclosures reviewed by Bloomberg BNA. That number is virtually unchanged from a year ago when efforts to stop the regulation were at a near-fever pitch in Congress.
Lawmakers have previously passed legislation and resolutions of disapproval to overturn or block the regulation, but support was always well below the levels needed to override the stroke of Obama's veto pen. Despite that reality, many of the entities reported lobbying Congress on those same efforts during the first quarter of 2016.
The continued lobbying doesn't surprise academics and other outside experts.
“This is hardly surprising,” Lee Drutman, a senior fellow with New America, told Bloomberg BNA May 3. “The passage of legislation is just the first battle in the endless fight on almost every issue. There's always another venue, and another opportunity for lobbying, another chance to make your case. Especially when you have lots of paying corporate clients.”
As in previous reporting periods, the entities lobbying on the Clean Power Plan ranged from major public health organizations to large publicly traded companies to coal companies (139 ECR, 7/21/15).
Among the companies lobbying on the centerpiece of the Obama administration's domestic efforts on climate change were Westrock Co., Alcoa Inc., Tesla Motors Inc., Xcel Energy Inc., Occidental Petroleum Co. and Siemens AG.
Public health and environmental advocates, including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association and the Catholic Health Association of the United States, all disclosed lobbying on the Clean Power Plan.
Southern Co., Vectren Corp., Duke Energy Co., Calpine Corp., NorthWestern Energy Corp. and Entergy Corp. are among the energy interests that also said they pushed Congress on the regulation.
Entities lobbying on the issue were identified through a search of lobbying records with the keywords “Clean Power Plan,”“111(d),” the number of the resolution of disapproval passed by Congress ( S.J. Res. 24) and two pieces of legislation (H.R. 2042; S. 1324) that would impede or outright kill the EPA's regulatory efforts under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.
After Obama vetoed both resolutions of disapproval Dec. 18, 2015, congressional aides and lawmakers said they were unlikely to try to override them. Oral arguments in a federal appeals court case challenging the regulation are slated for June 2 and possibly June 3 (West Virginia v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 15-1363, oral argument 6/2/16).
Despite the shift away from Congress to the courts in the fight over the Clean Power Plan, observers said they were not surprised lobbying efforts continued. Congress remains influential in the debate surrounding the EPA rule, some said.
“Whether or not litigation is the best strategy, Congress retains the ability to influence the process ... so it makes sense that industry lobbyists would continue to spend time talking to them,” Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch, told Bloomberg BNA. “I am slightly surprised that the amount of money spent would be exactly the same, but I’d imagine they are also spending comparable resources on every potential avenue that might influence the outcome.”
Jennifer Victor, a professor of legislative politics at George Mason University, told Bloomberg BNA many of the groups lobbying on the EPA rule have the primary purpose of advocacy before Congress. Others are membership-based and may feel pressure to show they are doing something, she said.
“Some pretty big shift in the political landscape would be necessary for them to curtail this kind of activity,” Victor said, such as a change in administration or the end of litigation on the Clean Power Plan.
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