positions generally," said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern
Alliance for Clean Energy. "Therefore they tend to represent the sort of retro,
laggard end of the spectrum."
Southern has an 11-person Washington D.C. team led by Bryan Anderson, who arrived three years ago from Coca-Cola. Additionally, Southern pays federal lobbyists at another 13 firms to work on a variety of issues. Among them are the firms of former Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and ex-New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Climate change is just one of the company's concerns. Lobbying reports examined by the AJC show the company also promotes its views on issues ranging from taxes on dividends to cyber security to surface transportation. Southern is also pushing to amend the Dodd-Frank financial reform act. A portion of that law would require companies such as Southern that trade in derivatives to put up margins -- or collateral -- to back up a portion of their bets.
In addition to lobbying, Southern donates regularly to political candidates, particularly Republicans, at both the federal and state levels. During the presidential race, its employees and political action committee gave more than $50,000 to the campaign of GOP nominee Mitt Romney, compared to $13,000 to Obama.
In all, its employees and PAC gave nearly three times as much money to federal Republicans as Democrats in the 2012 election cycle, according to a tally by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Georgia Power also spends heavily in its home state and has largely been successful in winning its battles at the Georgia Legislature and the state Public Service Commission.
But of late, Southern and its subsidiaries have encountered a bit of a headwind.
Earlier this year, the PSC ordered Georgia Power to add more solar power into its energy mix. And in Washington, the White House directed the EPA to regulate carbon emissions. That came after Republicans and moderate Democrats in Congress -- with Southern and other power companies urging them on -- defeated Obama's first-term gambit to create a cap-and-trade market in carbon credits.
Rules for new power plants will be unveiled later this month, with ones for existing plants slated for next year.
A DIFFERENT BALLGAME?
Experts say Southern has had success lobbying Congress because its theme -- the importance of affordable electricity -- resonates with the consumers who put lawmakers in office. It may be harder to make that case before EPA officials, whose mandate is clean air.
Fanning argues that handing the issue to the EPA was a mistake.
"When I think about the regulatory arena, I think what they are doing is largely well-intentioned -- well-intentioned, leave off the 'largely' -- but only Congress can balance all the competing objectives," Fanning said.
Industry experts note that power companies have had some success in working with EPA, particularly on making mercury pollution limits less costly. But the carbon debate has higher political stakes for Obama, which will make it tougher for industry to influence the rule-making process.
Tim Peckinpaugh, a veteran Washington lobbyist, said in many ways it is harder to lobby a regulatory agency, where the process is far more formal than the
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