New carbon limits put David Perdue's utility ties in spotlight

The Obama administration's announcement today that it wants to fight climate change by slashing carbon pollution will undoubtedly rile up GOP candidates for office. But it also puts one high-profile Georgia contender's ties to a utility in the spotlight.

Both businessman David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston, who square off in a July 22 GOP runoff for the open Senate seat, have vowed to oppose more regulations for carbon dioxide by arguing that the red tape will hamper business.

But Perdue's role with a utility company that has flirted with support of a cap-and-trade system - anathema to many Republicans today - places him in a trickier position.

The former Fortune 500 executive has sat on the board of Alliant Energy Corporation, a Wisconsin-based utility with more than 1.4 million customers, since 2001, a span that included President Barack Obama's push for a cap-and-trade system to limit emissions that scientists blame for trapping heat and warming the planet.

Several tipsters opposed to Perdue pointed out that during that time, Perdue served on the board's environmental and safety committee and the company's leaders voiced support for the efforts.

The utility's chief executive, Bill Harvey, applauded the board in an October 2009 conference call for becoming one of the first utilities to support a national program to reduce greenhouse gases by taking steps such as shuttering less efficient coal-fired plants. And the same year, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reported that Harvey came out in favor of the cap-and-trade system.

According to the Gazette:

"Harvey said Alliant supports a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas regulation but prefers a system that would allow utilities an initial allotment of credits to emit greenhouse gases rather than a system that would require them to bid at auction for their initial credits. He said any funds raised from the auction should be invested in technologies for reducing greenhouse gases."

Perdue's spokesman Derrick Dickey said that the businessman had no role in the utility's cap and trade position. He has also said, when Perdue's opponents pointed out that Alliant received $3.4 million in stimulus money, that a member of the 10-person board has limited say in the corporation's daily actions.

"A board of directors at a company that size is not involved in granular level operational decision making," Dickey told The Hill. "Of course the board has a general awareness of the company's activities, most of which are highlighted in annual and quarterly public reports; however, it does not direct the day-to-day operational decisions."

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.