Alstom last week pulled out of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), an industry group that advocates for the “robust” use of coal and advancement of cleaner coal technologies. The French company widely active in the development and testing of carbon capture technologies said it broke with the coalition because of its questionable support for climate legislation—the same reason Duke Energy cited when it withdrew from the ACCCE earlier in the week.

“Because of questions that have been raised about ACCCE’s support of climate legislation, we resigned from the organization to remove any doubt about our full support for climate change legislation,” Alstom spokesperson Tim Brown told POWERnews on Tuesday.

Alstom and Duke Energy both threw their support behind the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), an alliance of business and environmental groups that has called on the government to “enact legislation requiring significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.” That alliance in January released a document titled “A Blueprint for Legislative Action” (PDF), which articulates the need for a cap on greenhouse gas emissions and provides specific guidelines for the Obama administration and Congress to enact a federal carbon cap-and-trade program.

The Waxman-Markey bill that narrowly passed in the U.S. House on June 26 was based on USCAP’s blueprint, as Congressmen Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) have publicly stated. Interest in the document was evident at the very first hearing—on Jan. 15— held by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in the 111th Congress. The hearing, titled “The U.S. Climate Action Partnership,” focused solely on the perspectives of members of the alliance, including executives from ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy, Exelon, GE, and Siemens.

USCAP continues to lobby Congress for a cap on carbon, reporting only last week that chief executives from its 30 members met in Washington to “discuss upcoming consideration of climate and energy legislation in the Senate.” The ACCCE, meanwhile, said in a mission statement (PDF) that it is advocating timely adoption of carbon management legislation—including a mandatory cap-and-trade program—as long as “effective cost-containment measures be a centerpiece of the legislation.”

This July, however, the ACCCE was embroiled in controversy when an employee of a contracted lobbying firm, Bonner & Associates, was caught forging letters to House members asking them to reject the bill put forward by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Alstom, which had been a member of the ACCCE for almost three years, only joined USCAP in mid-July—a few weeks after the U.S. House passed the contentious climate change and energy bill. Brown on Tuesday denied that the company had then considered leaving the ACCCE, despite the scandal, saying instead that the company regularly reviews membership in various organizations to ensure that it is making “the best use of [its] resources to achieve [its] policy goals.”

“We will continue as full and active members of USCAP and will advocate for legislation consistent with the USCAP Blueprint,” he said. “We fully recognize that different groups have different views and will continue to dialogue with ACCCE and other stakeholders in the debate as part of our efforts to advocate for climate legislation that is effective and responsible.”

Duke Energy had withdrawn from the ACCCE earlier in the week because of a “disconnect” between the alliance and the company, according to Duke spokesperson Tom Williams. "We realized that there were elements in ACCCE that would not support climate legislation under any circumstances. We are supporting it. So we decided to leave the organization," he reportedly told The Charlotte Business Journal.

Earlier this year, Alcoa and FirstEnergy had also quietly ended their association with the coalition, the former giving no reason—although it continues to be a USCAP member—and the latter citing reasons other than climate change legislation.

Alstom, meanwhile, said that its support for the cap-and-trade program was in the best interests of its customers and general public, because “it uses market forces to minimize the cost of controlling carbon emissions.” Brown pointed out that the company had three different carbon capture technologies under way or planned in six countries (PDF). In the U.S., it has conducted since early 2008 a 2-MW to 3-MW chilled ammonia project in partnership with EPRI at We Energies’ Pleasant Prairie plant. It is also conducting a 20-MW to 30-MW chilled ammonia project with American Electric Power that began capturing carbon on Sept. 1.

The company’s statement on its ACCCE withdrawal coincided with an announcement that it had successfully started up and was operating a pilot plant to capture carbon emissions from the flue gas of a coal-fired boiler at a West Virginia facility owned by Dow Chemical Co. The pilot plant, which uses Alstom and Dow’s jointly developed advanced-amine technology is expected to capture about 1,800 metric tons of CO2 per year. It is expected to operate for the next two years.

“This pilot plant is designed to evaluate the technology operating under power plant conditions, test proprietary innovations jointly developed by Dow and Alstom and provide data necessary to finalize the design of large-scale demonstration plants that will apply this technology,” said Philippe Joubert, Alstom executive vice president and president of Alstom Power. “Integrating this process with new advanced coal and gas fired power generation equipment will allow customers to minimize CO2 emissions while generating electricity as cost effectively as possible.”

Noting that the next step for the two companies would be commercialization of the carbon capture technology, Heinz Haller, an executive at Dow Chemicals—a USCAP member—added: “Dow is uniquely positioned to help address the challenges associated with CO2 capture and other energy and climate change issues.”

Sources: Alstom, DOW, POWERnews, Duke Energy, Charlotte Business Journal