Oct 07, 2015 - 5:30pm

Carbon Regulation Supporters Told to Vilify Opponents

Senior Editor, Digital Content

In pushing for EPA’s carbon regulations, proponents were encouraged to vilify opponents, because the public (rightly) thought that electricity prices would go up, newly-revealed documents show.

In 2014 just before the Obama administration issued its proposed version of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a memo was emailed to staff of the Democratic Governors Association that included an interesting poll finding, reports The Washington Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay [emphasis mine]:

The Democratic polling firm Hart Research Associates conducted research on voter attitudes about the regulation, which has faced intense criticism since the EPA unveiled its proposed rule last year. Hart found that voters generally shared the concerns of Republican critics of the regulation.

“Research indicates that many voters’ default belief is that electricity bills will go up” as a result of the regulation, according to a Hart talking points memo circulated by an employee of Advocacy Advisors, a political consulting firm that, emails indicate, worked closely with the Climate Action Campaign, an initiative pushing EPA regulations.

“Denying [electricity] rate increases strains credulity with many audiences,” according to the memo.

The final version of the Clean Power Plan, released in August, calls for a 32% cut in carbon emissions from power plants by 2030.

The public knows a bad deal when it sees one. "[T]he EPA has picked winners and losers by imposing a system that will drive up prices in low-cost electricity states and redistribute the revenues associated with those higher prices to select West Coast and Northeast states," writes, Heath Knakmuhs of the Institute for 21st Century Energy.

Many also remember then-Senator Obama declaring that electricity prices would “skyrocket” if he were elected.

Instead of talking about the uncomfortable fact that the CPP would mean higher electricity prices, proponents were advised to “sow doubts about our opponents [sic] motives,” Markay reports:

“The key to success is a visible adversary,” the memo said. “In this case, that adversary is power companies, though this line of messaging easily could be adapted to encompass the coal industry or any other dirty energy advocate.”

The memo suggested blaming rate hikes on power companies themselves despite acknowledging the widespread view that EPA regulations would raise electricity rates. “Big power companies are using pollution limits as an excuse to raise rates—and we shouldn’t let them get away with it,” suggested one talking point.

Another talking points memo circulated a few days earlier expanded on Hart’s approach to undermining opposition to the EPA rule. “Big Polluters Put Profits Over People,” was one talking point suggestion. “Big Polluters Are Bad Corporate Citizens and Pollute Communities,” read another.

It also proposed attacking “polluters,” which it defined to include power companies and their “allies,” for “doing all they can to avoid paying their fair share” in taxes, and for “pay[ing] their CEOs millions of dollars each year.”

When you can’t argue on facts, you resort to vilification. When it comes to a forced reconfiguration of our power grid that will have a dramatic effect on businesses, consumers, and the economy, the public deserves a more honest debate.

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About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.