By Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian
A secretive group linked to a leading European chemical company has joined the campaign to defeat Barack Obama's green agenda, taking the fight beyond the traditional players — — the Guardian has learned.
The previously unknown Coalition for Responsible Regulation Inc. (CRR) is at the forefront of a strategy to strip the Obama administration of its powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions should Congress fail to act on climate change.
The group, which refuses to disclose its complete membership and which does not have a Web site, has joined more than a dozen states and a host of industry groups in 17 legal challenges to the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The connection to the chemical firm Solvay suggests opposition to action on global warming, once spearheaded by big oil, is spreading to other industries that will also be affected by proposals to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases.
Several of the petitioners against the EPA are household names, such Peabody Energy Corp., America's biggest coal mining company, and the , which has led opposition to Obama's climate agenda. They also include prominent rightwing thinktanks.
But some of those launching legal challenges against the EPA have appeared as if from nowhere — such as the CRR.
Court documents filed in Texas identify Richard Hogan, chief executive of Solvay's wholly owned U.S. subsidiary, as one of three directors of the CRR, the lead petitioner on the legal challenge to the EPA's authority to act on greenhouse gas emissions. The filings give Solvay's Houston office as Hogan's address.
The filings with the Texas authorities reveal the coalition was founded on Nov. 10 last year — a day after the EPA announced its scientists had determined that greenhouse gases were a public danger. The group filed its challenge to the EPA on Dec. 23.
Eric Groten, an attorney for the coalition, said it plans to file at least three more legal challenges against the EPA, which could tie up the agency in paperwork.
Such challenges to the EPA have intensified since last November, when the agency signaled it was preparing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, a measure widely seen as a backstop in case Congress failed to pass climate change legislation.
At least are considered motions this year casting doubt on climate science or seeking to overturn the EPA's authority to regulate emissions. Republicans in Congress have filed separate resolutions to set aside the EPA's finding about the dangers of greenhouse gases, and the Senate may reportedly seek to strip the EPA of powers in a climate bill expected to be rolled out next week.
Court documents identify the CCR as a non-profit membership corporation "for the purpose of promoting social welfare, particularly to ensure that the Clean Air Act is properly applied to greenhouse gases. Its members include business and trade associations engaged in activities that would likely be subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act."
The court documents list six companies and trade associations representing mining and beef interests among its members — but not Solvay.
Groten said there were more members — individual as well as corporate. He refused to identify members beyond those listed on the court petition, but compared the group to the Sierra Club, the grassroots conservation network. "Those who want to support its objectives contribute financially to it," he said.