American Electric Power says “We don’t agree with or share every position” of ACCCE, yet remains a member of the coal lobby group

The Conesville Power Plant in Conesville, Ohio, is operated by American Electric Power and burns about 12,000 tons of coal a day. That’s enough coal to fill 120 box cars.  ALLY MAROTTI / WOSU

American Electric Power (AEP), one of the largest utilities in the United States, distanced itself from some of the positions of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), but made clear that it nevertheless remains a member of the coal lobby group, despite the departure from ACCCE of most other major utility companies. From National Journal: Climate Stances Put Pressure on Major Trade Groups (subscription required):

The lines, however, aren’t always clear. American Electric Power, an Ohio-based utility, publicly ditched ALEC in December, saying it was “reallocating our resources as we focus our work with the states around the Clean Power Plan.” But AEP remains a member of ACCCE, albeit at a lower funding level. AEP spokeswoman Melissa McHenry told National Journal: “We don’t agree with or share every position that they take, but we continue to engage with organizations like ACCCE to advocate for climate solutions that include coal,” including technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions from coal power plants.

While other major utilities have left ACCCE, AEP remains a member

AEP’s continued involvement with ACCCE contrasts with several other major utility companies that have left the controversial coal lobby group. Duke Energy, Progress Energy, FirstEnergy, Ameren, and DTE Energy have all left ACCCE. Duke Energy said it left ACCCE because of differences with “influential member companies who will not support passing climate change legislation” and DTE Energy said “With the transition of DTE’s energy generation resources to a more diversified fuel base, ACCCE no longer aligns with our business strategy and we are no longer affiliated.”

As I noted in our report, American Electric Power disclosed that “AEP remains a funding member of ACCCE, but reduced its membership level in 2015.” That funding includes $20,000 to ACCCE in 2015 for the “lobbying portion of trade association dues/payments paid in 2015 by American Electric Power,” but AEP did not respond to questions about its overall funding to ACCCE.

Southern Company also remains a member of ACCCE.

The National Journal article notes that AEP’s continued membership in ACCCE also differs from the company’s decision to leave the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and its explanation that it left ALEC in part because of differences with its approach to the Clean Power Plan. Like ALEC, ACCCE continues to try and block the Clean Power Plan, including through a legal challenge that will be heard next month by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. In fact, ACCCE has sponsored sessions focused on the Clean Power Plan and other clean air rules at ALEC meetings.

Which ACCCE positions does AEP disagree with?

So while AEP has reduced its funding of ACCCE and clarified that it does not agree with all of ACCCE’s positions, it remains unclear where those disagreements lie. I asked AEP if it supported ACCCE’s legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan, or ACCCE’s report that echoed climate denial talking points. AEP did not respond to questions about ACCCE’s climate denial report, but did provide these comments, which suggest that AEP supports ACCCE’s legal attacks on the Clean Power Plan:

AEP remains a member of ACCCE, although at a much lower funding level than in the past, due to our continued use of coal for electricity production.

AEP has supported and taken action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions for nearly two decades. We have cut our CO2 emissions more than 39 percent since 2000 and are investing in new, lower-emitting generation including wind, solar and natural gas. We also are investing heavily in transmission to support renewable integration. However, we still believe coal needs to remain part of the energy production mix. We don’t agree with or share every position that ACCCE takes, but we continue to engage with organizations like ACCCE to advocate for climate solutions that include coal. Development and advancement of new technologies to reduce or capture CO2 emissions from coal-fueled power plants have to be part of any successful worldwide climate change solution due to the number of new coal plants worldwide.

Our decision to end our membership in ALEC was due to a variety of factors, not only their position on climate change.

We have advocated for a legislative solution to address climate change and supported the Waxman-Markey legislation. We are participating in the legal challenges of the Clean Power Plan through our membership in UARG as we believe that there are significant legal issues related to EPA’s authority to promulgate a rule that extends far beyond the sources that are regulated under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act.

So while AEP says it disagrees with some ACCCE positions, it has not clarified any specific differences with the coal lobby group, including ACCCE’s promotion of climate denial talking points. AEP’s comments also note that it is funding ACCCE at a “much lower funding level than in the past,” but the company has not revealed the total amount of its funding to ACCCE.

Posted by Joe Smyth