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PG&E Exits U.S. Chamber Over Climate Change

San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), one of the nation's largest energy utilities, last Tuesday pulled out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce regarding what it called "fundamental differences" over climate change.

The action followed similar moves earlier in September by Duke Energy and French-based Alstom Power when they separately gave up membership in the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy to protest the group's opposition to federal climate change legislation.

A strong critic of the Obama administration, the Washington, DC-based Chamber, a major organization for big business, in August called for a public debate on climate change science, facilitated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In April EPA already declared that so-called greenhouse gas emissions contribute to air pollution that endangers citizens' health and welfare.

"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," said PG&E CEO Peter Darbee in a letter telling the organization that PG&E was dropping its membership. "We have now reached a crossroads where the divergence between the Chamber's principles and ours on this issue has focused us to reconsider our future as a member."

Darbee said he was not opposed to what he called "an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response" to global climate change, but he felt the organization has been "disingenuous" by attempting to "diminish or distort the reality of these challenges."

In his letter Darbee tried to draw a sharp contrast between the U.S. Chamber approach and approaches that he called "constructive and consensus-building" by the Edison Electric Institute and the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, according to a PG&E spokesperson.

In the end, Darbee told Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue they must agree to disagree on climate change. He said that on many issues the utility closely agrees with the national business lobbying organization. "We are well aligned with the Chamber and supportive of its good work," Darbee said. "We also respect the Chamber's long history as a positive force for America's businesses and its economy.

"PG&E considers climate change to be among the most serious issues ever for our company, our country and the world," Darbee said in conclusion. "With this in mind, after careful consideration, we have come to the difficult conclusion that our fundamental differences over this issue have grown so significant that we will not renew PG&E's Chamber membership next year."

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