American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity
|Formation||November 6, 1992|
|Type||501(c)(6) advocacy group|
|Region served||United States|
|President and CEO||Mike Duncan|
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE, formerly ABEC or Americans for Balanced Energy Choices) is a U.S. non-profit advocacy group representing major American coal producers, utility companies, and railroads. The organization seeks to influence public opinion and legislation in favor of coal-generated electricity in the United States, placing emphasis on the development and deployment of clean coal technologies.
Since carbon capture and sequestration—which ACCCE and its member companies advocate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal burning—has yet to be tested on a large scale, some have questioned whether this approach is feasible or realistic. Additionally, ACCCE faced a Congressional investigation when it was discovered that a lobbying firm hired by ACCCE had sent forged letters to lawmakers. The letters, purporting to come from a variety of minority-focused non-profit groups, were in fact forged by a lobbying firm hired by ACCCE.
Members and history
The ACCCE began operations in 2008, the result of a combination of two organizations: the Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED) and Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC). CEED had been founded in 1992 and since then had been involved in a wide range of climate and energy policies related to coal-based electricity. ABEC, formed in 2000, had focused on consumer based advocacy programs concerning the use of coal-based electricity. In 2008 these two groups were combined to form ACCCE, with the goal of focusing on both legislative and public advocacy efforts. The main programs include the America’s Power campaign, launched in 2007 by ABEC, which had a significant presence during the 2008 and 2012  elections, as well as legislative efforts during the United States House of Representatives debate over the Waxman-Markey cap and trade legislation.
As of 2012, ACCCE is supported by 34 member organizations, including Peabody Energy, Southern Company, American Electric Power and CSX Transportation. The organization maintains headquarters in Washington, D.C.
In addressing comprehensive climate change legislation that would place a cap on greenhouse gas emissions and allow for trading of emission allowances, the position of ACCCE has primarily involved advocating for the development and use of clean coal technologies, while also including provisions concerning the allocating of carbon emission allowances. ACCCE has as also expressed support for a ceiling on emission allowances prices. At the time in 2008 when the U.S. Senate was considering the Lieberman-Warner bill (bill number S. 2191) – which would create a cap and trade system – ACCCE changed its prior stance towards climate-change legislation, noting that it "would support mandatory limits on carbon dioxide as long as legislation met a set of principles that encouraged 'robust utilization of coal.'"
The group also employed legislative efforts surrounding the 2009 debate over the Waxman-Markey cap and trade legislation (bill number H.R. 2454), to which it argued that regulations relating to carbon emissions in the proposed legislation would have led to increased energy costs and reduction in employment – potentially placing additional strain on the economy during the late 2000s recession. ACCCE provided proposals to Members of Congress for changes in this legislation, and approved of some changes that were adopted; though the group did not support the final version of the bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on account of concerns that there were not enough measures taken to control energy rates.
In addition to legislative methods employed by ACCCE, the organization has engaged in consumer-focused advocacy efforts in response to perceived environmental effects surrounding clean coal, consisting of direct to consumer advertising, as well as a group of approximately 225,000 volunteers (referred to as "America's Power Army," according to their website) involved in "visiting town hall meetings, fairs and other functions attended by members of Congress (to) ask questions about energy policy."
Initiatives of this form became the subject of news coverage surrounding the 2008 United States presidential election, as the organization's presence at the Democratic National Convention, Republican National Convention, presidential debates and other events has been described as having impacted both Senators John McCain and Barack Obama's positions in regards to investment in clean coal. In the last debate held prior to the election in 2008, Senator Obama noted his support of clean coal technology, when prompted by Senator McCain to explain a time in which he had backed a position not favored by the leaders of the democratic party.
ACCCE's legislative positions and advocacy-based actions have been met with opposing viewpoints from advocacy groups such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, which have questioned the viability of developing environmentally sustainable clean coal within an adequate time frame and budget – representing their perspective that funding of such projects should be sourced exclusively from within the coal industry.
During the 2009 debate over the Waxman/Markey bill, Bonner & Associates, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm subcontracted by ACCCE though the Hawthorne Group to drum up "grassroots support" for this effort, sent a number of fraudulent letters to lawmakers on behalf of ACCCE. The letters were forged to appear to come from various minority-focused non-profit groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Association of University Women.
When the forgery was exposed, and faced with a proposed Congressional investigation, ACCCE apologized to the community groups and to the members of Congress involved. ACCCE disavowed the tactic and blamed the forgeries on their subcontractor, who in turn blamed a temporary worker, acting alone. The Washington Post described the situation as a "saga of modern Washington, in which an 'American coalition' [the ACCCE] claiming 200,000 supporters still relies on a subcontractor to gin up favorable letters."
An investigation of ACCCE by U.S. Representative Edward Markey, launched in response to the forgeries, disclosed an additional set of fraudulent letters sent to lawmakers to lobby against the environmental legislation. In response to the investigation, the ACCCE pledged to take "all possible steps" to verify the authenticity of letters sent by Bonner & Associates on its behalf, and stated that it was cooperating with Markey's investigation. The investigation concluded in October 2009 with Jack Bonner, chairman of Bonner & Associates, taking “full responsibility” for the forged letters. Bonner and Associates was never paid by ACCCE for their work on the legislation.
- ACCCE 2008 IRS Form 990 Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (pdf) -page 31
- ACCCE 2008 IRS Form 990 Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (pdf) -page 1
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- Power, Stephen (August 18, 2009). "You’ve got (bogus) mail". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
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- "Members". American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. Archived from the original on October 26, 2010. Retrieved October 21, 2010.
- Heil, Emily (December 19, 2011). "Enviros, Clean-Coal Advocates Make Strange Bedfellows". In the Loop. Washington Post. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
- Lavelle, Marianne (May 25, 2009). "Think again about clean coal". Energy Publisher. Retrieved October 25, 2010.
- "About us". America's Power Army. Retrieved October 25, 2010.
- Mulkern, Anne C. (August 6, 2009). "'Citizen Army' Carries Coal's Climate Message to Hinterlands". The New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
- Power, Stephen (October 20, 2008). "Big Coal Campaigning to Keep Its Industry on Candidates' Minds". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
- Berman, Ari (March 26, 2009). "The Dirt on Clean Coal". The Nation (April 13, 2009). Archived from the original on September 30, 2010. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
- Farenthold, David (August 5, 2009). "Coal Group Reveals 6 More Forged Lobbying Letters". Washington Post. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
- Kaplun, Alex (October 29, 2009). "Lobbyist Apologizes to House Climate Panel for Forged-Letter 'Scheme'". The New York Times. Retrieved October 23, 2010.