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Utility Quits Alliance Over Climate Change

Amid a growing split in the business community over climate policy, Pacific Gas and Electric , a major California utility, is withdrawing from the United States Chamber of Commerce, citing “fundamental differences” with the chamber’s approach to global warming.

Global Warming
CNBC.com
Global Warming

“We find it dismaying that the chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling and point to a threat that cannot be ignored,” Peter A. Darbee, the chairman of PG&E, wrote in a letter to the chamber.

Excerpts of the letter, written last week, were published on PG&E’s blog on Tuesday.

The chamber has been sharply critical of President Obama’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. It has recently threatened litigation if the Environmental Protection Agency does not re-examine its findings on the effects of climate change on the public.

“We have over three million members, and we don’t comment on the comings and goings of our membership,” Eric Wohlschlegel, a spokesman for the chamber, said in response to PG&E’s announcement.

PG&E is the latest of a string of corporations to pull out of business organizations because of differences over climate policy.

Duke Energy , a large Southern utility that supports action against global warming, pulled out of the National Association of Manufacturers in December; climate was a partial factor, according to Thomas Williams, a spokesman.

In August, Duke left the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, also citing climate policy. “It was clear that many influential members would never support climate legislation in 2009 or 2010 no matter how it was written,” Mr. Williams said in an e-mail message. Alcoa, the aluminum company, also pulled out of the coal coalition this summer, with climate policy being one factor, according to a spokesman.

Mr. Williams added, however, that Duke had no plans to leave the national chamber, saying that it dealt with many issues. The chamber’s stance against efforts by the administration and Congress to regulate carbon dioxide, the main gas that causes global warming, has been the subject of vigorous debate in the business community.

The chamber supports reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in principle, but rejects any approach that it believes would drive up the price of energy and send American jobs overseas. Many of the businesses critical of the chamber have embraced the approach taken by the administration and many Democrats in Congress, who want to cap carbon emissions and require businesses to buy permits to exceed the caps.

“We strongly disagree with the chamber’s position on climate change legislation and particularly reject its recent theatrics” in calling for a review of the E.P.A.’s findings, Don Brown, a spokesman for PNM Resources , a New Mexico-based utility holding company, said in an e-mail message. Mr. Brown noted that PNM’s chief executive recently stepped down from the chamber’s board.

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