UPDATE (July 27, 3:30pm): Stephen Moore, a member of ALEC’s Private Enterprise Advisory Board, dropped a whopper during one of the few sessions at ALEC’s annual meeting that was open to select reporters. “The biggest scam of the last 100 years is global warming,” Moore said before going on to engage in a personal attack on scientists. Learn more.
This week the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is holding its annual meeting in San Diego and one look at the agenda reveals this fossil fuel-funded front group remains bent on preventing the nation’s transition to a clean energy economy. With the EPA set to finalize its Clean Power Plan in the next few weeks, ALEC is frantically ramping up efforts to obstruct and roll back policies that support renewables and efficiency and curb carbon emissions. Here’s a quick guide on what to look out for.
ALEC’s tumultuous year
On many counts, ALEC has had a rough time since last year’s annual meeting. Last fall, Facebook joined other major tech companies that have severed ties with ALEC. In fact, more than 100 corporations have now left the organization, including big oil companies like BP, with many opting to leave since public outcry began over ALEC’s now notorious attacks on climate science and renewable energy. The exodus is expected to continue, with Shell signaling it may leave soon.
ALEC and their fossil fuel allies also continued their long history of failure in attempting to roll back renewable energy and climate policies in 2015. For example, ALEC’s attempts to obstruct implementation of the Clean Power Plan—the first-ever national limits on global warming pollution from power plants—failed in 21 out of 22 states.
Even ALEC’s ‘wins’ this year were largely meaningless. First, they scored a hollow ‘victory’ this past spring in making the Kansas renewable energy standard (RES) voluntary: the state’s 20 percent by 2020 RES has already been achieved and Kansas is now a national leader in wind development. And in another “win”—repealing West Virginia’s nonbinding alternative energy goal that allowed for fossil fuels to count towards compliance in addition to renewable energy—even the organization itself admitted it was purely symbolic.
Meanwhile, many states continued to push for new or stronger renewable energy polices. Hawaii committed to 100 percent renewables by 2045, while Vermont joined the ranks of states with a mandatory RES, and New York is setting its sights on 50 percent renewables by 2030. The California legislature is also moving toward a 50 percent renewables target, and at least 10 other states have considered expanded RES policies.
Doubling down on deceit and deception
One might think ALEC would learn its lesson and listen to a public that strongly supports policies requiring more use of renewable energy sources and limiting global warming pollution from power plants. But that has not happened.
Instead, the folks at ALEC are using their annual meeting to double down on their deceptive tactics.
For example, the meeting features a workshop on “Renewable Energy Mandate Reform.” Headlining the panel will be Ohio senator Bill Seitz, who earned national notoriety for likening the state’s now frozen RES, which he voted for in 2008, to “Joseph Stalin’s 5-year plan.” Seitz will be joined by the head of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, known for its role in “blowing smoke” about the cost of renewable energy in the Sunflower State.
And that’s the tip of the iceberg. ALEC’s Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force, which is led by the utility AEP, is slated to consider ‘model policies’ and resolutions that will make your jaw drop:
- “The Environmental Litigation Act.” This cut-and-paste bill would allow for “gifts, grants, and donations” to an official state fund used for the sole purpose of researching and pursuing frivolous lawsuits filed by states to obstruct implementation of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, or any other federal law that causes “detriment…to industries.” It’s not hard to guess who would be making these “gifts, grants, and donations,” given ALEC’s usual clientele.
- “Resolution Concerning Special Markets for Direct Solar Power Sales.” The stated purpose of this resolution is to oppose removing market barriers that would allow solar providers to sell electricity directly to homes and businesses, empowering solar to compete on a more level playing field with traditional electric utilities. For an organization that claims to stand for free markets and oppose government “picking winners and losers,” this gem of misinformation is particularly ironic.
- “State Power Accountability and Reliability Charter.” Here is another cut-and-paste bill that would tie the hands of state environmental and air quality regulators in red tape, by inhibiting their ability to incorporate renewable energy, energy efficiency, or even natural gas, into state compliance plans for meeting the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
- “Act Providing Incentives for Carbon Reductions Investment.” I wrote about this wolf in sheep’s clothing when it popped up in the agenda for an earlier ALEC meeting. In summary, this bill is simply a thinly-veiled attempt to undermine state RES’s by restricting investments in real renewables, such as wind and solar, and allowing for non-renewable energy technologies to be used for compliance.
On the bright side
In an agenda that’s otherwise laden with clean energy policy attacks, there is one silver lining for those who have been shining a light on ALEC’s closed-door convenings of corporate lobbyists and state legislators. So far at least, ALEC’s annual meeting agenda does not include any obvious direct attacks on climate science—a major departure from the blatant disinformation doled out at ALEC’s summer and winter meetings last year. But we will be watching for any last minute appearances by climate deniers.
Let’s build on that success, and continue to push back on ALEC’s ongoing attempts to undermine the nation’s transition to an affordable, reliable, and low-carbon energy future.
UPDATE (July 27, 3:30pm): Last week, I mentioned we would keep an eye out for disinformation about climate science at ALEC’s annual meeting. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I have to report that Stephen Moore, a member of ALEC’s Private Enterprise Advisory Board, dropped a whopper during one of the few sessions that was open to select reporters.
“The biggest scam of the last 100 years is global warming,” Moore said before going on to engage in a personal attack on scientists.
The real hoax is the decades-long disinformation campaign against science perpetrated by special interest groups, including ALEC, and funded by fossil fuel interests. Last week’s ALEC meeting is case in point: we now know that the sponsors once again reflect a laundry list of oil, coal, and utility interests, including AEP, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, Chevron, and ExxonMobil.
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