2009 forged letters from coal industry to Congress

This document collection features a compilation of several letters discovered in 2009 written to members of Congress in  opposition to climate legislation called the American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill. The letters were forged by a subcontractor to a PR firm hired by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), an influential climate denialist organisation which claims to be “the only national trade organization whose sole mission is to advocate at the federal and state levels on behalf of coal-fueled electricity and the coal fleet.” Notable members of ACCCE include American Electric Power, Peabody Energy, the Western Fuels Association, and the Kentucky Coal Association

The letters urged members of Congress to oppose the Waxman-Markey bill, which was intended to establish an emissions trading plan within the U.S. targeted at reducing U.S. emissions. The fake letters, mocked up to look like they were from a variety of social non-profits including the NAACP, claimed that the climate bill would hurt their low-income or minority members who would be unable to afford their electric bills if the legislation was passed.

The ACCCE was formed in 2008, when it merged two other climate-denialist organizations – The Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED) and Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC). The group stated that their new name “more accurately reflects who we are and our belief that technology will help ensure that coal remains a fuel of the future when it comes to meeting America’s growing energy needs.” Under the ACCCE branding, the group (headed until 2012 by Stephen Miller as President and CEO) spent $35 million in advertising campaigns leading up to the 2008 Presidential election “to rally public support for coal-fired electricity and to fuel opposition to legislation that Congress is crafting to slow climate change.” 

The 2009 letters contained here show the ACCCE’s follow-through on that strategy to oppose climate legislation. 

In 2009, the PR firm Hawthorn Group, hired by ACCCE, subcontracted Bonner & Associates to campaign against the climate legislation moving forward in the House. As part of this campaign, Bonner & Associates wrote letters to House lawmakers claiming to be from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Creciendo Juntos (a platform for the Latinx community). “My organization…Represents minorities in your district,” the letters began, asserting that “we are concerned about our electric bills. Many of our members are on tight budgets…Our state gets 56% of its electricity from coal. We urge you to pass legislation that reduces greenhouse gases but at the same time protects consumers from unaffordable increases in the basic necessity of electricity.” 

After an investigation into the letters by the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming in August of that same year, Stephen Miller admitted to the existence of the forgeries and said that the ACCCE was “outraged at the conduct of Bonner & Associates.” Nevertheless, ACCCE continued to contract the Hawthorn Group until 2012. 

The ACCCE remains active in its lobbying efforts to obstruct climate and environmental legislation, and also produces pro-coal reports such as “Myths About Coal-Fired Power Plants,” that are made accessible to political representatives and the public online.


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