06/24/2010 10:02 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Sierra Club Forcefully Opposes Key Cap-And-Trade Compromise

One of the leading environmental groups in the country offered its most forceful opposition yet to a leading compromise on climate change legislation, raising questions as to whether there is a broad enough coalition to get even a watered-down bill passed.

Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, said on a conference call on Thursday that a cap on greenhouse gas emissions that only affects the utility sector would fall short of both the president's goals and the definition of effective reform.

"A utility-only bill does not meet the standard that the president set in Copenhagen last year," said Brune. "We feel it will not produce the emissions [standards] the planet needs to begin to address the threat of climate change. Moreover it misses an opportunity to address more clean energy jobs... The Sierra Club does not support a bill that is limited in scope to utilities."

Brune's comments are far more direct than those offered just days ago by the director of the Seirra Club's global warming division, David Hamilton, who said he wanted to wait for additional details before weighing in on the merits of a utilities-only cap. And they suggest that the main compromise being proposed on the key sticking point of climate change legislation faces stern opposition itself.

To this point, 60 votes in the Senate have not materialized in favor of a full cap-and-trade system. The White House floated the utilities-only approach last week as a means of pacifying conservative critics. But much like a watered-down version of the public option for insurance coverage, progressives seem poised to air opposition before any deal is struck. Whether they'll drop that opposition for the good of passing some piece of legislation remains to be seen.

On Thursday, Brune, alongside officials for VoteVets.org and the SEIU, announced that they would be launching a massive $11 million ad campaign targeting Democratic and Republican senators alike on reform. The coalition of groups did not say whether they would engage senators on the issue of cap-and-trade. The first round of ads, instead, would focus on a recent vote to remove authority from the EPA to regulate carbon emissions (a vote that failed).

The groups did not unveil the ad itself. That will come next week, said Brune, when four to five individual senators will be targeted (respectively in positive and negative spots.)