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Protesters rally against U.S. Chamber, Congressman Upton

Protesters rallied at an energy forum hosted by the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce today. They’re calling on the Kalamazoo Chamber to cut its ties with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Organizer Matt Lechel is against the U.S. Chamber’s energy policy that supports the coal, nuclear and oil industries. He cites a number of business owners and large corporations – like Nike, Best Buy and DOW Chemical – that are publicly opposing the Chamber’s energy plan.

“I’d like to see some of that from the Kalamazoo Chamber. Instead what we’re seeing is them (Kalamazoo Regional Chamber) walking in lock-step with them (U.S. Chamber) and hosting a forum with someone who’s clearly going to represent the interests of dirty energy, both from the U.S. Chamber and Representative (Fred) Upton.”

Representative Fred Upton chairs the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. He sponsored a bill that would stop the government from regulating the amount of carbon dioxide companies can emit into the air.

Lechel say there are a number of local businesses who are against the Chamber’s policy and Upton’s stance on limiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s power too.

Kalamazoo Regional Chamber President and CEO Steward Sandstrom is not surprised some chamber members are against the policy. With 1,800 members, he says they rarely all have the same opinions about any given policy issue.

“That’s part of the power of the Chamber. It’s that we have voices from all directions and it comes up with a stronger position in the end.”

Sandstrom says it’s important his chamber provide a platform for their members to hear from and give input to important policy makers (like Upton) and shapers (like the U.S. Chamber).

Sandstrom says the Kalamazoo Chamber will not cut ties with the U.S. Chamber as protesters requested.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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