ALEC

Halliburton/Koch Brothers lobbyist has cozy ties with North Carolina’s fracking commission

 

Fracking North Carolina:

In North Carolina, Halliburton and other fracking industry interests helped write a fracking chemical disclosure bill.  But when that bill ended up requiring disclosure of harmful chemicals to the state environmental agency, the bill was killed and replaced with one that further limited disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking.

cache of emails obtained by Greenpeace has revealed the cozy relationship between the hydraulic fracturing industry and North Carolina’s Mining and Energy Commission.

The Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) was set up after an errant vote by a state senator legalized fracking in North Carolina. Because the state had not seen oil and gas drilling in recent history, the Mining and Energy Commission was tasked with writing oil and gas regulations, specifically for fracking. The 15 members of the MEC propose regulations for fracking, which are then passed on to the North Carolina legislature to be turned into law.

Emails and meeting schedules from members of the North Carolina’s Mining and Energy Commission reveal how various fracking companies and national lobby groups, including America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), Energy in Depth (EID), Halliburton, and Koch Industries, influenced the Mining and Energy Commissioners, in regards to disclosure of chemicals used in fracking.

Halliburton’s Hand

Halliburton has played a significant role in shaping potential fracking regulations in North Carolina. In March of 2013, the Commissioners approved a chemical disclosure bill in committee which would have required fracking companies to disclose to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) the chemical ingredients in fracking fluid, many of which are extremely toxic. However, Halliburton, a major fracking services company, raised some reservations which killed the bill, as AP reporter Michael Biesecker confirmed:

In an interview with AP, Mining and Energy Commission Chairman Jim Womack acknowledged that before deciding to delay the vote, he spoke with a senior Halliburton executive.

Jim Womack
Jim Womack

“They indicated to me in a phone conversation that there may be other options than what was written in that rule,” Womack said.

The bill was taken off the agenda by Womack, and sent back to be rewritten by the chemical disclosure committee.
Commissioner Womack himself is not worried about water contamination from fracking. He once said:

“You’re more likely to have a meteorite fall from the sky and hit you on the head than you are to contaminate groundwater with fracking fluid percolating up from under the ground.”

Halliburton has always cast a long shadow over the MEC. Commissioner Vikram Rao was at Halliburton for over 30 years, ultimately as the company’s Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer.  He maintains a significant financial stake in Halliburton, and also has over $10,000 invested in BioLargo, a company involved in disposal of fracking wastewater.

Rao has also called the idea of disclosing the contents of frackfluid “a joke.”

Documents obtained by Greenpeace also reveal that the shale industry was close with one commissioner in particular.

George Howard, the pro-fracking conservationist

George Howard
George Howard

George Howard serves as vice chairman of the MEC, and as the chairman of the chemical disclosure committee, which is tasked with creating regulations for frack fluid and other fracking chemicals. He was appointed by North Carolina’s Senate President Pro-Tem Philip E. Berger to serve in one of two “conservation” slots on the MEC. Berger received $46,700 in campaign contributions from fracking interests between 2009 and 2011.

In his tenure as Mining and Energy Commissioner, George Howard has been a strong proponent of hydraulic fracturing. He has said that public fears around fracking are exaggerated and that responding to public pressure is “pandering.” He has also claimed “it is physically impossible for hydraulic fracturing – the full industry term for fracking – to contaminate underground aquifers.”

In addition to serving as commissioner for the MEC, Howard is the founder and CEO of Restoration Systems, an environmental remediation company. Through Restoration Systems, Howard has a significant financial stake in the fracking industry, including a multi-million dollar shale play project in Pennsylvania. Howard has also invested in the area of North Carolina most likely to be leased by fracking companies.

Howard is connected to other top regulators, especially John Skvarla, the Head of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), who was president of Restoration Systems before becoming an environmental regulator. DENR would be the agency responsible for enforcing fracking laws recommended by the MEC.

Halliburton/Koch Industries Lobbyist Pushed ALEC fracking bill

Documents obtained by Greenpeace include correspondence between George Howard and various representatives of the oil and gas industry during the creation of the first chemical disclosure bill. Howard had multiple meetings with the American Petroleum Institute (API) and spoke with high-ranking members of the American Natural Gas Association (ANGA). Howard specifically requested help from Energy In Depth (EID), an oil and gas front group run by the PR firm FTI Consulting and funded by the fracking industry. Howard asked Steve Everley, the spokesman for EID and an FTI Consulting operative, to help him prepare for a MEC meeting on chemical disclosure.

Bo Heath
Bowen Heath

Although George Howard met with and solicited information from multiple shale industry groups, one lobbyist was particularly influential.  Bowen Heath, who represents Halliburton, Koch Industries, and various other oil and gas interests for the lobbying firm McGuireWoods, had unparalleled access to the Commission. Emails reveal a chummy relationship between George Howard and Heath, who spent evenings together and went for beers in the afternoons.

Heath used that access to advocate for a fracking chemical disclosure system that allows generous exemptions for chemicals that companies deem “trade secrets.”

Heath provided a fracking chemical disclosure bill  to Howard that the shale industry and its political allies previously passed in Colorado. The Colorado bill was based on a model bill from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded group dedicated to passing legislation approved by ALEC’s corporate funders, including fracking companies like Chesapeake Energy. Bo Heath has longstanding ties to ALEC, and has attended ALEC annual meetings.

A New York Times investigation found that the Colorado chemical disclosure bill was the handiwork of one ALEC funder in particular, ExxonMobil.

As part of the push for the ALEC fracking bill passed in Colorado, Bo Heath arranged for Colorado ex-governor Bill Ritter to fly down to North Carolina to meet with George Howard and the MEC. The AP confirmed that Ritter’s fees and expenses were not paid by the MEC, and Bo Heath’s lobbying group refused to comment on Ritter’s funding.

Hallmarks of the ALEC fracking bill include generous exemptions from disclosure for “trade secrets,” and reliance on the FracFocus website for disclosing chemicals to the public. FracFocus’s operational costs are paid for by the oil and gas industry lobbying groups American Petroleum Institute (API) and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA). FracFocus was found to be “severely lacking” as a regulatory tool by a recent Harvard study.

Heath continued to advocate for the industry/ALEC approach to chemical disclosure, and even brought in a key member of FracFocus, Mike Paque. Paque is the executive director of the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC). The GWPC has long been an ally of the oil and gas industry, receiving funding from the American Petroleum Institute and other industry affiliates. Reports produced by GWPC are the backbone of the oil and gas industry’s claims about the safety of fracking. The GWPC also runs  the FracFocus website, and advocates for its use.

Taking up his drinking buddy's suggestion, George Howard selected Paque as an expert witness for the MEC. Paque presented the industry-funded FracFocus website in an unrecorded meeting on December 18, 2012.

The New Bill Further Limits Disclosure

In the end, even though the bill that George Howard passed through committee was shot down by Jim Womack and Halliburton, it contained most of what Bo Heath and other industry lobbyists wanted. It used the API, ANGA funded website FracFocus for disclosure of chemicals, and exempted chemicals deemed trade secrets from being disclosed to the public on that website. However, Halliburton killed the bill because it required disclosure of all chemicals to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The new bill, which has passed through the MEC committee and is headed for ratification in the State House of North Carolina, included a requirement to use the FracFocus website, following the ALEC fracking model legislation passed in multiple states. And like those states, trade secrets are not disclosed the state, or the public.

Five Questions on Climate Change for Lisa Nelson, ALEC CEO

From Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes. Universal Press Syndicate, 1993, via Circle Squared.

Written by Kert Davies - former Research Director of Greenpeace USA - crossposted with permission from Climate Investigations Center: Five Questions on Climate Change for Lisa Nelson, ALEC CEO.

Five questions reporters might ask Lisa Nelson, ALEC CEO on climate change and energy:

1. YOUR PERSONAL UNDERSTANDING OF CLIMATE SCIENCE?

Lisa Nelson, you stated recently that you “don’t know” the science of climate change.

Q: What is your plan to further inform yourself on climate change?

Q: What sources of information will you be seeking and what questions about the science of climate change are you seeking to answer first?

Note: Nelson answered to National Journal “I don't know the science on that" when asked specifically whether human emissions are the primary driver of climate change.”

2. ALEC’s POSITION ON CLIMATE CHANGE?

Q: Will you be seeking advise and counsel from ALEC’s Board of Directors, Private Enterprise Advisory Council, Board of Scholars or Private Sector Members to clarify ALEC’s position on climate change in the wake of Google and other recent corporate departures?

Notes: ALEC spokesman Bill Meierling was recently quoted saying ALEC doesn't have a position on climate science anymore than a policy “jelly beans”, a strange analogy for a crucial issue of our times.

Lisa Nelson said on Diane Rehm: “To be clear: ALEC has no policy on climate change, and does not take positions without underlying model policy. " Yet the organization's September 24th letter to Google stated ALEC “Recognizes that climate change is an important issue...” However, the ALEC website is more direct yet equivocal on the scientific basis: “Global Climate Change is Inevitable. Climate change is a historical phenomenon and the debate will continue on the significance of natural and anthropogenic contributions.”

Which is it?

3. ALEC SPONSORS CONTROL OF MEETING AGENDA?

There are many events (luncheons, workshops, etc.) held during ALEC conferences.

Q: How much control do sponsors have over session topics and speaker selection? Have the Heartland Institute or CFACT indeed paid ALEC to hold sessions about climate change during your meetings? Or did ALEC request that they hold these briefings?

4. BALANCED “EXCHANGE” ON CLIMATE SCIENCE?

ALEC stated in its September 24th Letter to Google that it “just hosted a roundtable conversation for a variety of companies—including Google—on this very issue.”

Q: Will you provide evidence of this “roundtable” and what companies were present?

Note: There was a Google presentation within the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force session of the July annual meeting, but specifically on the subject of Google's renewable energy goals, not climate change.

5. ALEC OPPOSITION TO SUBSIDIES FOR FOSSIL FUELS AND NUCLEAR ENERGY?

ALEC maintains positions against government mandates and subsidies which backstop the organizations opposition to renewable energy targets.

Q: Given ALEC’s emphasis on free markets and subsidies, does the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force plan to pass model legislation limiting fossil fuel and nuclear energy subsidies and corporate welfare?

ALEC's Lisa Nelson Doesn't Know ALEC's Climate Change Position

Lisa Nelson, the new CEO of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, doesn't know her organization's position on climate change.

In a segment on WAMU's Diane Rehm Show, ALEC's Lisa Nelson claimed to not understand the science of climate change, and said, "We as an organization, specifically do not comment on climate change."

Funny enough, just a week before, ALEC posted its "Position Statement on Renewables and Climate Change," in response to heightened attention to its role in denying climate change.

The surge of attention is due to recent and very public departures by Google, Facebook, Yelp, Yahoo and even Occidental Petroleum, specifically citing ALEC's backwards work on climate change.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt said people working for ALEC are "literally lying" about global warming, announcing that Google's staff didn't wish to continue supporting such work (after Google's failed attempts to get ALEC to support clean energy).

ALEC's history of climate change denial runs deep. In addition to blocking policy solutions to global warming, ALEC helps to smother competition of clean energy industries for its fossil fuel company members, specifically working to repeal state clean energy standards and impose fees on "freerider" homeowners who feed excess energy back into the electrical grid from their solar panels. Most recently, ALEC has called for "guerrilla warfare" against the Environmental Protection Agency's first rule to limit carbon pollution from U.S. power plants.

ALEC is a dating service for lobbyists and state legislators. It helps corporations write model bills that its legislator members then introduce in states around the U.S., tax free for its corporations. Its operations are kept secret from the public.

ALEC staff are sensitive to the fact of how its lobbying for corporate clients violates its false claims of promoting "free markets." In fact, ALEC doesn't care about free markets.

As Greenpeace has documented, ALEC has no bills to remove handouts or subsidies for fossil fuel companies, and plenty of bills promoting oil, gas and coal projects. Meanwhile, ALEC has no bills promoting renewable energy projects and plenty of bills attacking incentives for clean energy.

Confronted on this contradiction, ALEC stays mum, consistent with its pattern of avoiding public accountability.

Dominion: Dump ALEC! Protesters Confront Polluters on ALEC's Home Turf

Yesterday, about 80 clean energy advocates visited the Arlington, Virginia office of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to protest its dirtywork for polluting companies like Dominion Resources, a major utility in Virginia.
 

Click here to add your voice: tell Dominion to Dump ALEC!

Brandishing small wind turbines, banners and posters calling on Dominion to sever ties to ALEC, noting the company's role in causing climate change. Many protestors are Dominion customers out of necessity, due to market monopolization, and are demanding that Dominion make wiser investments with the royalties they provide as customers.
 
Here are some photos, Courtesy of Oceana's Caroline Wood. Greenpeace was among the supporting organizations, led by Sierra Club, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Black Youth Project, Food & Water Watch, Oceana, and Progress VA.
 
15139829402_324a22967c_z
Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille
 

 

ClimateProgress author and Physicist Joe Romm.
ClimateProgress author and Physicist Joe Romm.
 

 

A student activist named Priscilla advocates for quality climate science education.
Oceana Volunteer Priscilla Lin advocates for quality climate science education.
 

 

Jonathan Lykes of the Black Youth Project (BYP100) urges activists to practice unity among movements for economic, racial and climate justice.
Jonathan Lykes of the Black Youth Project (BYP100) urges activists to practice unity among movements for economic, racial and climate justice.
 

 

Ivy Main, Chair of Sierra Club Virginia Chapter
Ivy Main, Chair of Sierra Club Virginia Chapter
 

 

Protestors Engage Traffic Before the Event
Protestors Engage Traffic Before the Event

 

 
The following guest speakers urged for action on climate change, clean energy development, unity across movements, and racial and economic justice:
  • Bill Euille - Mayor of Alexandria VA
  • Joe Romm - Physicist and Founder of Climate Progress
  • Jonathan Lykes - Co- Chair Black Youth Project 100, D.C. Chapter
  • Jorge Aguilar - Southern Region Director at Food & Water Watch
  • Priscilla Lin - Recent graduate of William and Marry College and Volunteer with Oceana
  • Ivy Main - Chair Sierra Club Virginia Chapter and member of Virginia Governor’s Climate Commission
  • Seth Heald - Vice Chair, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter

Building Pressure on Dominion to Dump ALEC:

This protest is the latest in ongoing calls for Dominion Resources to sever ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council. Alexandria Mayer Bill Euille wrote an op-ed in the Fairfax Times, encouraging readers to "to join me in Crystal City at the Sept. 4 rally calling on Dominion to sever its ties with ALEC." Shareholders have filed resolutions at Dominion's last annual meeting, and formally requesting increased commitment to addressing climate change and disassociation from ALEC, citing climate change denial and complaints to the IRS about ALEC's potential tax status violations. Of nine ALEC member utilities contacted by Greenpeace earlier this year, Dominion was one among three that continued to stand by ALEC. Why all the pressure and protest? ALEC is currently helping dirty energy companies wage "guerrilla warfare" against the country's first rule to curb climate pollution as part of a decades-long effort to deny climate change science and block policy solutions. In recent years, ALEC's coal and oil company members have used the shadowy lobbying group--through its state politician members--to attack incentives for clean energy and penalize homeowners who install their own solar panels. ALEC infamously labeled such people "freeriders on the system."
Despite being repeatedly pressed by Greenpeace on how ALEC upholds its "free market" slogan when it consistently attacks clean energy incentives while advancing fossil fuel industry interests, ALEC staff have not been able to account for the contradiction:
 
 
Leading this charge within ALEC is the Edison Electric Institute, the primary trade association for utility companies like Dominion and Duke Energy. Todd Wynn, a climate change denier who previously directed ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force, is now working for Edison Electric Institute. EEI remains a primary voice within ALEC's anti-environmental task force, which on churns out model policies to undermine pollution safeguards and stunt the growth of clean energy development. Not accountable to customers, lobbyists like Wynn at EEI provide some political cover for its utility members like Dominion, Duke Energy, and Arizona Public Service, all of which have ignored calls to dump ALEC and have acted aggressively against distribute generation solar energy--homeowners and small businesses taking steps to become energy independent.

@PolluterWatch Live Tweets from the Protest:

 
 

Heartland Institute Climate Change Denier James Taylor PWND on TV

James Taylor, lawyer for The Heartland Institute who claims he's "a scientist by training" because he took college science classes, despite having no degree in science.

(Not an internet nerd liek the author? Check out what "pwn" means...)

SHOWTIME's Years of Living Dangerously series just aired a segment featuring James Taylor, a lawyer who has been paid to confuse the public over the reality of climate change, its causes, and its impact on humanity. The Heartland Institute, where James Taylor works, is know for alienating its corporate supporters by comparing people like you and me--assuming you recognize the reality of climate change--to the Unabomber, Charles Manson, and Osama bin Laden.

I wish I was joking, but I'm not.

The joke was on James Taylor, last night. Taylor made an easily disprovable boast to America Ferrera, claiming, "I'm a scientist by training as well," apparently in addition to his law degree. See a teaser of that interaction here:

When pushed for an explanation--since Taylor holds no degree in science--he misrepresents himself:

"I successfully completed Ivy League atmospheric science courses, so I'm a scientist by training."

Who'd would've thought? Apparently if we all want to be scientists, we just need to take a course or two in science!

That means there must be thousands, perhaps millions of people in this country who qualify as scientists in James Taylor's world. Unless, of course, you have to take your science classes at the Ivy Leagues--I'll follow up with Taylor about that and let you know what he thinks.

After trying to spin his lack of expertise as full credentials, Taylor invokes the long-debunked "Oregon Petition" as supposed proof against climate change, despite the petition's inception as a tactic of the fossil fuel industry, its lack of climate experts as signatories, and its inclusion of fictitious characters like the Spice Girls.

As Lisa Graves at the Center for Media and Democracy explains in the Years of Living Dangerously segment,

"The scientific evidence is really against them, but they say things so boldly and stridently that it makes some people believe that they must be telling the truth."

She's right. It has to take a lot effort, creativity and sheer willpower to make a career pretending the obvious does not exist.

Imagine if The Heartland Institute's staff spent their time and money working on real solutions to these problems. Imagine if people like Koch and Murray felt the inevitable need for a shift, and put their skills as businesspeople into solutions-based entrepreneurship.

Unfortunately, these fossil fuel executives would rather fight against inevitable future trends, just like the Tobacco industry fought tooth and nail against scientific evidence of the dangers of smoking. In fact, The Heartland Institute continues to wage Big Tobacco's campaign. Check out this recent video of Heartland's president, Joe Bast, caught in an embarrassing contradiction of his own claims denying the health impacts of smoking:

The Heartland Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity and other fossil fuel industry front groups have united to kill incentives for wind energy in Kansas. Affiliated under the banner of the State Policy Network, these groups have also coordinated against clean energy in states like North Carolina and Ohio, where dirty energy giants may score a victory against renewable industry jobs.

So far, most of the State Policy Network attacks on clean energy have failed. As Years of Living Dangerously examines in Kansas, leasing land for wind farms has benefited farmers like Pete Ferrell, who faced impossible economic conditions from recent extreme droughts, made worse by climate change, leasing land to the wind industry has provided crucial income.

Because of farmers like Pete, and blue-collar wind workers and other citizens who are pleased with getting energy from sources that doesn't poison their air, water or climate, Kansas politicians have now defeated attacks on renewable energy incentives three times in the last two years. More are likely to come, as companies like Duke Energy and Peabody coal don't want clean energy competitors, while executives at Koch Industries and Murray Energy Corporation still combat the science of climate change with the finance of misinformation.

That means we will continue to see people like James Taylor, popping up on our TV sets and our state legislatures, lying about whatever he's paid to lie about. Keep your eyes peeled.

james taylor heartland institute climate change energy

Heartland Institute lawyer James Taylor, as illustrated in Greenpeace's report on climate change deniers: "Dealing in Doubt"

Google, other IT companies should end support for climate denying groups like ALEC

Written by Gary Cook, crossposted from Greenpeace's The EnvironmentaLIST: Google, other IT companies should end support for climate denying groups like ALEC

At Google’s annual shareholder meeting today, the company faced an uprising from stakeholder groups and shareholders over its membership in and financial support for lobbying groups that include some of the biggest opponents to climate change and renewable energy on offer in Washington, DC, a town which boasts quite a collection.

If the notion that Google supports climate change deniers and fossil fuel interests makes you scratch your head, you’re not the only one. After all, Greenpeace has been vocal in our praise of Google for its leadership in building a green internet, powering its data centers with renewable energy, and investing in the solutions to climate change.

Google is the most prominent technology company that on one hand embraces the science of climate change, while on the other supports institutions dedicated to denying climate science, but it unfortunately is not the only one.

Here is a quick rundown of the “stink tanks” - front groups for the oil, gas and coal industries that attack clean energy and climate science - with which some otherwise pro-clean energy tech companies are cavorting, and samples of their dirty energy agendas:

ALEC

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), allows member corporations to pay to ghostwrite model legislation and then promote it in states around the country, mostly among right-wing state legislators. ALEC is actively collaborating with many of the nation’s worst polluters to kill clean energy and climate policies. In 2013, ALEC pushed model legislation to repeal renewable energy portfolio standards in over a dozen states, though it failed across the board. The group’s 2014 agenda includes continued assaults on renewable energy laws, like net metering, which is critical to home and business owners with solar panels. ALEC is also targeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to limit global warming pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Tech Company Supporters: eBay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Yelp

Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI)

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is a Washington, DC based think tank with a long history of denying the science of climate change and any efforts by government to address it. CEI has recently expanded to include a technology practice that has helped to bring in in new tech sector members, all of which otherwise support renewable energy development. Tech companies join CEI in spite of the fact that the oil industry-funded front group continues to be one of the most vocal opponents to addressing global warming pollution regulations inside the Beltway.

Tech Company Supporters: Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft

US Chamber of Commerce

The US Chamber of Commerce has been a key part of the corporate effort to block federal action on climate change and undermine the scientific consensus on the issue. It continues to lead the effort to block the Obama Administration’s plans to regulate global warming pollution from US power plants, which currently make up the largest single source of US global warming pollution.

Tech Company Supporters: Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft

State Policy Network (SPN)

The State Policy Network serves as a coordinating umbrella group to advance a far-right agenda across a broad range of US states, often working in close conjunction with SPN members like ALEC. These groups, via SPN coordination, aim to pass state legislation that would undermine renewable energy growth and action on climate change.

Tech Company Supporters: Microsoft, Facebook

So why are Google and other companies that use innovative strategies to power the internet with renewable energy undermining those very efforts by offering their political support to organizations which are actively committed to sabotaging the clean energy revolution?

It’s likely not because Google or other IT companies have a secret anti-clean energy agenda. IT companies, especially Google, have deliberately increased their ties to conservative groups in recent years as part of the pay-to-play politics that they think are necessary to push their agendas in D.C around a variety of issues.

But that’s not an excuse. Google, Facebook and others can support conservative groups or politicians if they feel it necessary without lending their brand, their integrity, and their money to organizations that actively deny climate science and fight to maintain oil, gas and coal industry supremacy.

The IT sector has shown its ability to speak in its own voice on a range of issues such as immigration reform, government surveillance, and net neutrality, often doing so with members of both parties. Companies that have shown integrity in other ways, by supporting clean energy or standing up to illegal government surveillance, don’t need to swim in the Beltway muck by supporting climate deniers like ALEC or CEI. We have repeatedly heard claims from tech sector companies over the years about efforts to reign in business associations from the inside, to counter their fossil fuel patrons and get them to take a more reasonable position. But as we can see from the never ending attack on sensible energy and climate policies, those efforts have clearly failed, and it’s time to abandon them.

If Google and other IT companies are serious about being leaders on climate change and clean energy solutions, then they should heed the ask of today’s shareholder resolution and disclose all of their lobbying positions and payments. Then they should discontinue their support for groups that deny the reality of climate change or attack the clean energy revolution that their companies are otherwise helping to catalyze.

 

Valentine VIDEO: ALEC is Duke Energy's Corporate "Dating Service"

Crossposted from Greenpeace's blog, The EnvironmentaLIST.

Over the last four years, Greenpeace has made a Valentine's Day tradition of spoofing the influence peddling of corporate lobbyists and captured politicians. This year's installment embodies the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which reporters have characterized as a "dating service" for its role in pushing copycat, corporate-crafted laws through state legislatures.

This year, our PolluterHarmony story wrote itself. Online dating ads running on TV have featured a creepy middleman who plays third wheel on various peoples' dates. In real life, ALEC is that creepy middleman, creating a tax-deductible process for companies to vote as equals with state politicians on bad laws that appear in legislatures around the country. This all happens with little to no disclosure, away from the constituents who elected ALEC's member legislators. phormony-macro-1

This secretive attack on the public comes in many forms: privatizing education, weakening unions and public employee benefits, increasing gun violence, keeping legitimate voters away from the polls, denying climate change science, limiting the liability of corporations that harm people, and many other items on the Big Business wishlist.

Want examples? Check our humorous dating profiles (citing real-life events) on an ALEC senator in Ohio attacking clean energy incentives and an ALEC senator in Nebraska who was courted on a trip to the tar sands courtesy of ALEC, oil companies and the Canadian government.pharmony-macro-2

ALEC has said that one of its top priorities in 2014 will be to make it harder for homeowners and businesses to put solar panels on their rooftops by introducing solar taxes on behalf of big utilities that are afraid of losing customers.

But thanks to increased public scrutiny, ALEC has struggled in recent years to avoid its own controversial shadow. ALEC's own leaked documents confirm it has lost at least 60 corporate members and 400 legislative members, thanks to ALEC's role in pushing Stand Your Ground laws and Voter ID legislation that keeps people with social minority status away from the voting booth.

While ALEC staff have given lip service to increased transparency, journalists like Washington Post's Dana Milbank and Mother Jones' Andy Kroll have shown how ALEC keeps its doors firmly shut on the public.

Even companies that are sticking with ALEC appear to be embarrassed by the association: Duke Energy has done all it can to not confirm renewed ALEC membership, ignoring repeated calls, emails and a 150,000-strong public petition delivered by a diverse coalition of organizations whose members don't appreciate how ALEC's bad policies make Duke appear two-faced.

Please share our video to help spread the word on ALEC, and send a message to state legislators at StandUpToALEC.org.dulek(duke-alec)

No Prodigal Sun? ALEC Doesn’t Want Its Clean Energy Members Back

Crossposted from Greenpeace's blog, the EnvironmentaLIST.

Leaked American Legislative Exchange Council documents published by The Guardian recently offered a glimpse into ALEC's financial troubles, spurred by its role in peddling corporate laws through statehouses around the country. ALEC's controversial work has caused its member companies to abandon it, such as pushing the National Rifle Association's Stand Your Ground laws, efforts to undermine clean energy incentives and delay climate change regulations, and breaking workers unions.

The ALEC documents revealed its "Prodical Son" project [sic], a list of 41 corporate members the legislator-lobbyist matchmaker would like to entice back into its roster. ALEC has lost about 60 corporate members since 2011, the year ALEC Exposed was launched by the Center for Media and Democracy.

But there are some private sector members that ALEC doesn't want back. 60 companies left ALEC and it's asking 41 to rejoin...so who is missing from the Prodigal Son list?

Conspicuously, both the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) are not on ALEC's secret Prodigal Son list. Not surprising, since an ALEC staffer accused residential solar rooftop owners of being "freeriders," despite how they feed extra electricity back into the grid and spare utilities the capital costs of installing those solar panels themselves.

The solar trade group SEIA left ALEC in the fall of 2012. Shortly before that, ALEC's Energy, Environment & Agriculture task force considered, but didn't ever approve, the Solar Streamline Permitting Act (see p. 18). It's pretty much what it sounds like--making it faster and easier for state governments to approve solar projects, a concept that you might assume ALEC's conservative member legislators would embrace.

But ALEC didn't pass the solar permitting model bill. At the same time, ALEC was incubating its assault on state clean energy incentives through The Heartland Institute's proposed Electricity Freedom Act, the repeal of state renewable portfolio standards, later introduced in some form in 15 states, according to ALEC.

ALEC's documents list SEIA among "Lapsed" members, with a note explaining "left because their bill did not pass the task force." SEIA was ALEC's only interest dedicated entirely to solar energy at the time, and with both SEIA and AWEA absent from ALEC's ranks, ALEC has no members predominantly focused on clean energy development.

Check out Rachel Maddow's recent interview with Guardian reporter Ed Pilkington for more on ALEC's work against clean energy and other revelations from ALEC's leaked documents:

ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force: Hostile Territory for Clean Energy

Members of ALEC's EEA task force include Koch Industries, the engine of climate denial finance, not to mention many groups its billionaire owners fund and even helped create, like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute and The Heartland Institute.

There's ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute, the architects of the leaked 1998 master plan to publicly attack climate science and scientists, which included ALEC itself and other ALEC members like DCI Group.

There's Peabody Energy, which commands its PR spokespeople to deny global warming. There's Duke Energy and Arizona Public Service, two major utilities fighting to make residential rooftop solar energy more expensive for residents and small businesses owners in their respective regions. ALEC's utilities are joined by their top trade association, Edison Electric Institute.

And don't forget the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the heavily advertised "coalition that hates each other." ACCCE was caught subcontracting groups that forged letters to Congress against 2009's failed national climate policy.

Mining, petrochemical, utility, & agribusiness interests supporting ALEC:

Many dirty energy interests have recently sponsored ALEC's conferences, pay to participate in ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force meetings, or both. ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force is currently co-chaired by American Electric Power's Paul Loeffelman and Wyoming state Representative Thomas Lockhart.

*Companies with membership on ALEC's national corporate board are indicated with asterisks.*

Koch:

*Koch Industries*--with business in oil and gas exploration, pipelines, refining and trading, coal and other carbon product logistics, timber and consumer paper products, commodities trading and investing, chemicals, fertilizer, ethanol, cattle and game ranching, glass, fiber optics, electronics and plenty of awkward public relations. The Charles Koch Foundation and Koch-controlled Claude R. Lambe Foundation both fund ALEC outside of Koch Industries' membership dues, together giving ALEC hundreds of thousands of dollars. ALEC has long depended on the Koch brothers.

Oil & Gas:

  • Atmos Energy
  • BP
  • Cheniere Energy
  • Chesapeake Energy
  • Chevron
  • Continental Resources
  • Devon Energy
  • EnCana Corporation
  • Energy Transfer
  • *ExxonMobil*
  • Marathon Oil
  • McMoRan Exploration Company
  • OXY USA (Occidental Petroleum)
  • QEP Resources
  • Shell
  • Spectra Energy
  • TransCanada Pipelines
  • Williams Companies

Oil & Gas Lobby:

  • American Petroleum Institute (API)
  • American Gas Association (AGA)
  • America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA)
  • Center for Liquified Natural Gas

Coal Mining:

  • *Peabody Energy*
  • Cloud Peak Energy

Utilities (primarily Coal, Gas and Nuclear generation):

  • American Electric Power (AEP)
  • Ameren
  • Arizona Public Service (APS)
  • Dominion Resources
  • Duke Energy
  • *Energy Future Holdings*
  • MDU Resources
  • MidAmerican Energy (all owned by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway)
    • PacifiCorp
    • NV Energy
  • NiSource
  • PG&E Corporation
  • Salt River Project (SRP)

Coal, Chemical & Fossil Fuel Product Shipping Railroad Co's:

  • Burlington Northern Santa Fe (owned by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway)
  • CN
  • CSX Corporation
  • Genessee & Wyoming Inc.
  • Norfolk Southern
  • Union Pacific

Coal & Utility Lobby:

  • American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE)
  • Edison Electric Institute (EEI)
  • Indiana Energy Association
  • National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)
    • Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives (NRECA member)
  • Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI)

Chemical, Agribusiness and Paper Industry Interests:

  • Dow
  • LyondellBasell Industries
  • American Chemistry Council
  • American Plastics Council
  • Bayer
  • J.R. Simplot Company
  • CropLife America (lobbying group for Monsanto & other agribusiness corporations)
  • International Paper

Uranium Mining & Nuclear Technology:

  • Virginia Uranium
  • EnergySolutions

State Policy Network, SPN members & SPN associate members:

  • State Policy Network (umbrella for 64 state-based orgs and over 250 formally-affiliated allies--see full SPN member list)
  • Americans for Prosperity
  • Atlas Foundation
  • Competitive Enterprise Institute (co-authors ALEC reports against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pollution rules)
  • The Heartland Institute (IL)
  • Goldwater Institute (AZ)

ALEC notes show that SPN members the Commonwealth Foundation (PA) and John Locke Foundation (NC) have recently lapsed but would like to rejoin ALEC's ranks. Each of these SPN groups are part of the the Koch-funded climate denial machine.

Public Relations firms with known Fossil Fuel Clients:

If any companies have disassociated with the American Legislative Exchange Council, we will gladly update this post upon request.

NC to Duke Energy: Have You Dumped ALEC Yet?

Amid a dump of leaked American Legislative Exchange Council documents published by The Guardian last week, North Carolina is asking Duke Energy: Have you finally dumped ALEC?

NC WARN and ProgressNC have both raised the question, based on Duke Energy's inclusion in a list of "Lapsed" private sector ALEC members featured in The Guardian and an article in the Raleigh News & Observer.

ALEC's notes for Duke Energy's lapsed membership, as of April 22, 2013, only say "Merged with Progress Energy, new contacts," indicating that Duke's absence was only temporary as new personnel were assigned to participate in ALEC's work. Duke and Progress merged into the largest U.S. utility company last year.

Duke Energy, North Carolina's monopoly utility company, has long been a member of ALEC. Last year, Duke Energy refused to leave ALEC even after being petitioned, emailed and called by over 150,000 people to defect. ALEC's controversial legacy includes blocking climate change policies as part of Big Oil's 1998 master plan, the NRA's Stand Your Ground laws, which increase homicide rates, and "Voter ID" bills that suppress legitimate American voters, especially students, the elderly and people with brown skin.

While Duke Energy has resisted calls to dump ALEC, it has responded to the pressure by distancing itself from several items on ALEC's dirty lobbying laundry list:

  • Duke has repeatedly pushed back on any association with ALEC's Stand Your Ground and voter suppression laws.
  • Duke's call for action to address global warming clash with ALEC's legacy of climate change denial, including new draft policies to interfere with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's greenhouse gas rules, and a bill that forces teachers to misrepresent climate change science to their students, now law in at least four states, thanks to state legislators implementing ALEC's model bills.
  • Duke has explicitly denounced ALEC's attacks on state Renewable Portfolio Standards-laws to increase utility electricity generation from cleaner sources. Duke takes credit for helping create North Carolina's RPS.

So why has Duke Energy resisted popular pressure to leave ALEC, including from its own ratepayers? If Duke doesn't like ALEC's history shilling for climate change deniers, nor the National Rifle Association, nor the Republican party's voter disenfranchisement strategies, what is making Duke stay?

ALEC's new attacks on rooftop solar electricity producer are right in line with Duke Energy's attempt to pay back 29% less to homeowners whose solar panels feed extra electricity back into the grid, despite the fact that these homeowners fronted the costs of installing and maintaining solar panels themselves.

Duke is terrified of the prospect of rooftop solar energy, which threatens its century-old monopoly business model. Duke is used to being the dominant company providing power to North Carolina residents, and they can basically charge customers as much as they want. More customers are choosing to install their own solar panels as the technology rapidly becomes cheaper, keeping money in the pockets of ratepayers rather than Duke's executives.

ALEC's Updating Net Metering Policies Resolution, discussed last week at its States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington, DC, would complement dirty utilities like Duke Energy that are working to make it more costly for people to feed their own solar power into the electrical grid. See here for ALEC's new anti-environmental resolutions.

Which Utilities will be Using ALEC's State Lawmakers to Attack Solar Energy?

ALEC's utility member companies The new ALEC resolution was crafted with help from lobbyists at Edison Electric Institute, the primary trade association for Duke and most other large U.S. utility companies.

EEI's roster also includes Arizona Public Service (APS), the utility that tried to force Arizona's residential solar electricity producers to pay $50 per month for feeding unused electricity back into the grid. In the end, the monthly fee was reduced to $5 per month, which still serves as a disincentive for homeowners to install their own solar panels.

As it sought to make net metering more expensive for small-scale solar producers, APS lied to the public, denying its funding of anti-solar TV advertisements run by Koch brothers front groups.

APS recently rejoined ALEC after disassociating for a short year. ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force includes APS and presumably Duke Energy, among other dirty energy giants. The EEA task force is governed by American Electric Power's Paul Loeffelman and Wyoming state Representative Thomas Lockhart, friend of the coal industry.

Duke Can Still Do the Right Thing

Duke Energy needs to make its intentions clear.

The company can go with the Koch brothers, ALEC, and companies like APS, and financially punish North Carolinians who choose to produce their own electricity. Or, it can finally dump ALEC, its bad policies and anti-democratic processes and shift to a business model that embraces the power of the sun. It can continue to plan around a cost on carbon emissions and phase out dirty coal that aggravates everything from climate change to water pollution to asthma.

We hope to get the right answer from Duke Energy soon.

Oops! CEO of Corporate Front Network Lied to Reporters - State Policy Network

State Policy Network CEO Tracie Sharp

Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy and ProgressNow released a series of reports on how the State Policy Network coordinates an agenda carried out by affiliate "Stink Tanks" in all 50 states. Responding to questions from reporters, SPN's CEO Tracie Sharp demanded that each of the seemingly independent groups were "fiercely independent."

But Jane Mayer at the New Yorker reports Tracie Sharp said the opposite to attendees of SPN's recent annual meeting. In Oklahoma City last September, Ms. Sharp plainly told her associates how to coordinate a broad agenda and pander directly to the interests of billionaire funders like the Koch brothers and the Searle family for grants:

Sharp went on to say that, like IKEA, the central organization would provide “the raw materials” along with the “services” needed to assemble the products. Rather than acting like passive customers who buy finished products, she wanted each state group to show the enterprise and creativity needed to assemble the parts in their home states. “Pick what you need,” she said, “and customize it for what works best for you.” During the meeting,

Sharp also acknowledged privately to the members that the organization’s often anonymous donors frequently shape the agenda. “The grants are driven by donor intent,” she told the gathered think-tank heads. She added that, often, “the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen.” She said that the donors also sometimes determined in which states their money would be spent.

Tracie Sharp responded to the New Yorker with a generic statement that didn't address her contradictory statements. And who knows if there's anything useful she could say at this point, The State Policy Network was just caught with its pants down.

For those who don't spend their days reading about the inner workings of the corporate-conservative political machine, the State Policy Network isn't a familiar name. But it's an important entity. SPN serves as the umbrella of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and all of its state and national allies pushing a coordinated corporate-friendly agenda through all 50 states.

SPN and ALEC have led the coordinated attack on clean energy in states like North Carolina, Kansas and now Ohio. Dozens of SPN groups are longtime players in the Koch-funded climate change denial movement. By orchestrating against policies to lessen global warming impacts or by directly undermining the science, SPN's efforts have ranged from urging inaction on global climate treaties and forcing teachers to misrepresent climate science to their students.

Beyond shilling for the coal, oil, gas and nuclear companies bankrolling ALEC and SPN's operations, these coordinated entities attack public employee unions, wages and pensions, block Medicaid expansion, suppress legitimate voters, push to defund and privatize schools, and undermine choice in women's health.

And who pays for SPN's work in all 50 states?

SPN's main purpose is to advance the interests of its corporate funders: dirty coal and petrochemical industries, the tobacco giants, agribusiness, pharmaceutical companies, private education firms, tech and telecom companies, and the usual web of trade associations, law firms and lobby shops paid to represent each of those industries. Corporations use SPN to advance political campaigns they are typically embarrassed to associate with publicly.

The State Policy Network also serves to advance an ideological agenda that tends to undermine the interests of most Americans in favor of those who are particularly wealthy and well-connected.

The Koch brothers fit this description, of course. But they're joined by a legion of lesser known multi-millionaires and billionaires, sometimes coordinating directly with the Kochs.

These SPN funders include Richard Mellon Scaife, Phil Anschutz, Art Pope, the Coors family, the DeVos family, the Searle family, and the remains of the Bradley family fortune, to name a few of the better known of these sources of dark money. Few citizens recognize the names of this quiet minority of political puppetmasters, but people still feel the bruise of plutocratic spending as state and national politics are pushed to new extremes.

More on the State Policy Network can be read in the National Stink Tanks report. SourceWatch has the full list of SPN members and affiliates and SPN funders.

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