In a letter to the Chamber, Johnson & Johnson has asked the Chamber to refrain from making comments on climate change unless they “reflect the full range of views, especially those of Chamber members advocating for congressional action.”
Nike spokeswoman Anne Meyers said her company has also been “vocal” with the Chamber’s leaders “about wanting them to take a more progressive stance on the issue of climate change.”
While the Chamber’s opposition to cap-and-trade legislation introduced by House Democrats mirrors the views of some in industry, particularly energy producers, Meyer said Nike “didn’t feel that consumer companies had a particularly strong or vocal voice around the issue of climate change.”
Lobbyists at business coalitions that support federal climate change legislation say other companies are discussing the possibility of sending their own letters to the Chamber — or of threatening to withhold dues from the Chamber in protest.
But William Kovacs, the Chamber’s vice president for the environment, technology and regulatory affairs, downplayed the divide within the nation’s most powerful lobbying group.
“We deal with 300 to 400 issues a year, and there are times when members would disagree,” he said. “But on 95 percent of the issues, we have 95 percent of the support.”
While some energy producers and manufacturers oppose any federal action to cap carbon dioxide emissions, at least 35 major corporations — including Johnson & Johnson and Nike — have joined coalitions designed to push federal climate change legislation.
The Chamber has not taken an explicit position against all federal climate change regulation, but it has opposed the most significant proposals introduced in Congress.
The business lobby has come out strongly against a draft bill in the House that would create a cap-and-trade system to cut greenhouse gases and promote the development of renewable energy technology.
In the House Energy and Commerce committee last month, Kovacs said the legislation would “result in energy shortages and high energy prices, which in turn means higher prices for just about everything else.”
And last week, the Chamber released a study showing that the bill could result in more than 3 million jobs lost by 2030 and a cost of more than $2,100 per household.
The Chamber also opposed a cap-and-trade proposal introduced by former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) during the past session of Congress.
Environmental advocates say the positions the Chamber has taken put it out of sync with many of its members.
“Based on the public statements from the other members of the Chamber, Johnson & Johnson is certainly not alone in having a different position from the Chamber,” said Peter Altman, climate campaign director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
According to Altman’s analysis, 99 of the 122 companies represented on the Chamber’s board have taken no public position on global warming. Nineteen support regulation, while four oppose regulation or disagree with the science behind it.
“The U.S. Chamber is representing the views of a small minority of its board members,” said Altman.
Chamber lobbyists say that the group’s positions are determined by its members, which are organized into 16 policy groups and five taskforces.
Kovacs said the Johnson & Johnson letter came the day the Chamber’s environment and energy committee was meeting. The group of more than 100 members debated cap and trade, the carbon tax and the use of technology for nearly three hours, he said.
“At the end of the debate, ther were no members asking to change our policy,” he said.
The draft version of the House climate change legislation incorporated proposals suggested by the United States Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of business and environmental groups that supports capping emissions. The Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy, a group of consumer companies, also backs the House bill.