When it comes to obstructing the social good in the name of corporate welfare, few have been more effective in recent history than the American Legislative Exchange Council. That innocuous name, usually shortened to ALEC—as if to conjure thoughts of some benign, vanilla acquaintance of your dad’s— hides a nefarious history of stymieing environmental regulation, supporting racist voter ID rules and Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” laws, and blocking the way of a living wage and collective bargaining.
In the last few weeks, ALEC has given its polluting members a lot to be pleased with—and given the American public a lot to scrutinize.
Still, there have been some encouraging signs that fighting ALEC’s incursions into our Democracy can work. When the public sees how ALEC’s initiatives only benefit corporations and people like Charles and David Koch, tables can turn quickly.
We’ll start with the bad to get your heartbeat up.
- ALEC practically wrote the book on how to deny climate change, starting to peddle doubt since the early days of the Kyoto Protocol. Late last week Kert Davies documented the new lows ALEC has reached with its misinformation. ALEC has hosted industry-funded scientists to present on the “benefits” of atmospheric CO2, as if carbon pollution were a good thing for the world. It has supported bills in state legislatures that would make it mandatory to “teach both sides” of the climate science—as if the 3% of scientists who express doubt present an equal case as the 97% of scientists who agree global warming is driven by human activities. And it has consistently lobbied on behalf of energy utilities against renewables. Please check out Kert’s blog post. It’s an eye opener.
- Speaking of eye openers, NRDC’s Aliya Haq exposed ALEC’s comprehensive schemes to go guerilla-style on the EPA. Aliya puts it better than we can, and we definitely suggest you check her post out. But to give you a basic rundown, the EPA is on the verge of setting new carbon emissions limits for power plants, for the first time ever. This would be historic—power plants are the biggest source of emissions in the country. These limits would of course impact energy utilities in a big way. ALEC has gone on the attack on their behalf, waging smear campaigns against the EPA and supporting legislation in ten states that would limit state governments’ ability to enforce the new EPA standards.
- Rounding out Aliya’s and Kert’s analysis of ALEC climate obstructionism were two more great posts: In one, Union of Concerned Scientists’ Sam Gomberg looks into ALEC’s efforts to roll back Ohio’s impressive gains in renewables and efficiency standards.
- Meanwhile over at DeSmogBlog, Steve Horn documents the progress of two bills currently in the Florida legislature. Both of them are Exxon-and-ALEC-backed policy that would deeply damage transparency over the chemicals used in fracking. These “disclosure” laws are so full of loopholes with telling nicknames—anything people refer to as the “Haliborton loophole” can’t be good—that one original Texas legislator who initially sponsored the law lamented, “This disclosure bill has a hole big enough to drive a Mack truck through.”
- Over at the Institute for Southern Studies, Sue Sturgis documents how ALEC teamed with Duke Energy in its national efforts to fight stricter regulations on coal ash. If passed, those regulations would have paved the way for safer storage of coal ash, a toxic byproduct of coal burning. Had they gone through—instead of being blocked through the actions of ALEC and Duke—Duke’s huge spill in North Carolina earlier this month may have been avoided.
- Continuing on the Duke/ALEC connection, Gabe Elsner over at the Energy & Policy Institute has been writing about Duke’s and ALEC’s combined efforts to attack net metering in North Carolina, while exposing similar anti-solar energy efforts in Washington state and Kansas. Obviously, any program that would pay homeowners for sending excess electricity produced by their own rooftop solar installations back to the grid would be bad for big utilities. But it would be a positive in almost all other respects. The lengths to which ALEC has fought to defeat such a cornerstone of good renewable energy policy speak volumes about how scared the very notion makes big electric utilities.
And the good news…
Remember how we mentioned there was some of that?
Last week we sent out letters to nine electric utilities that have been listed as sponsors of or donors to ALEC. Almost immediately after we sent those letters out, we heard back from MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. Their representative told us that MidAmerican, along with their subsidiaries PacificCorp and NV Energy have disassociated from ALEC with no plans to rejoin. Though their announcement to Greenpeace should not be considered permanent, it is a gesture by an electric utility toward participatory democracy.
Still, laggards like Duke Energy and American Electric Power remain in ALEC’s solar system, manipulating state laws with no disclosure to the people affected by them.
Stay tuned for updates.