The energy lobby has had a very busy, and expensive, 2011 in Washington, D.C.
Amy Poszywak at SNL Financial reports that lobbying among the largest U.S. power companies topped $11 million in the third quarter of 2011 (the latest figures available) and that expenses have been high all year.
Not surprisingly, the biggest companies attempting to sway congress and the administration include some of the biggest polluters in the nation.
At the top of the list we find Southern Co., which spent $2.1 million in the third quarter of 2011 and $2.1 million in the second quarter of 2011. Southern Company has fought relentlessly against clean air rules.
In second place for the third quarter was Duke Energy Corp., which spent $1.6 million in the period and $1.7 million in the second quarter of 2011. Duke spent a great deal of effort this year attempting to spike any legislation that would regulate global warming.
In fourth place we find American Electric Power Co. Inc., (AEP), which spent about $1.4 million on lobbying expenditures in the third quarter. AEP spent about $2.8 million in the second quarter. The company, based in Columbus, Ohio, holds about 25,000 MW of coal-fired power plants and gets a vast majority of its energy from burning coal.
The lobbying done by energy corporations was intended to shape and defer rules coming from the Environmental Protection Agency (often under court order) that would cut air pollution, redefine coal ash as a toxic waste, and upgrade coal plants' cooling water systems to avoid killing fish.
Big Energy typically hires lobbyists in Washington, D.C. to spread the message that clean air is far too expensive and will cost jobs. These claims are countered by the Environmental Protection Agency and many independent analysts who have shown that for every dollar spent to reduce this pollution, Americans get $5-13 in health benefits.
Energy firms who have already installed modern pollution controls like Constellation Energy, NextEra Energy Inc. and Exelon Corp. welcome the new regulations.
For a list of the top polluters in the nation see America's Top Power Plant Toxic Air Polluters, a new report by Environmental Integrity Project.