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Forged Letters Not The First Case Of Coal Industry Group's Bamboozlement

Last year, the Senate considered a previous effort to stop climate change, sponsored by John Warner and Joe Lieberman. A group identifying itself as Americans for Balanced Energy Choices made calls to voters, urging them to oppose the measure. But a month earlier, ABEC had merged with another industry front group to create the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. So it was ACCCE behind the calls.

And here's what happened when one of those calls went to an environmental activist, according to an account published on the website of the Institute for Southern Studies, a respected liberal southern think tank:

They wanted to add my name to a fax to Senators Lieberman and Warner asking them leave it up to the states to decide how to respond to climate change rather than drive up our utility rates. When I asked who ABEC was, I was told that they were individuals concerned about utility rates. When I asked if they were an environmental group, the answer was "yes." When I asked whether they were related to the utilities, the answer was "No." When I asked to find out more about them I was directed to their website. When I told the lady that they were the coal lobby, they said that they did believe in "clean coal." When I told the lady that the information she had previously given me was fraudulent, she said she would tell her supervisor.

Then, after that account appeared, a spokesman for the group responded by blaming the episode on a "new staff member" who "decided to 'wing it,'" -- just as ACCCE's contractor has blamed the forged letters on a "bad employee."

But those letters were an "isolated incident," of course.