American Legislative Exchange Council
The third and final meeting of the year for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) just wrapped up in Scottsdale, Arizona, last week.
On the day of ALEC's board meeting, Greenpeace attempted to ask ALEC's board of directors and executives about climate change science. ALEC CEO Lisa Nelson was not keen on speaking to us.
ALEC has a long history of denying climate change. It continues to take payments from fossil fuel companies like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, and Peabody Energy. It was part of the American Petroleum Institute's leaked plan to manipulate the public's trust in climate scientists, spelled out in an eerie memo from 1998.
As for Lisa Nelson, she is on the board of a Libertarian think tank that promotes solutions to climate change. The Niskanen Center was named after the late co-founder of Charles Koch's Cato Institute, whose recent death led to an attempted coup of the organization by the Koch brothers. Some of Niskanen's staff are former Cato executives, who now support a carbon tax, perhaps the most viable policy solution to global warming. This has caused a rift between the Libertarian purists and the Koch network's hacks-for-hire, like Pat Michaels, the disgraced climatologist at Cato.
Since Ms. Nelson has taken the helm of ALEC, she has lost over a dozen corporate members. Some of those companies--Google, SAP, and Shell--even condemned ALEC specifically for peddling doubt over climate change in their statements explaining why they have abandoned the lobbying group.
[UPDATE: Since publishing, ALEC was abandoned by American Electric Power (AEP), a major U.S. coal-burning utility that has even lent staff to help govern ALEC's anti-environment task force. AEP states that ALEC's interference with the US Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan is the reason they are leaving. AEP remains a member of the utility trade group, the Edison Electric Institute, itself a member of ALEC.]
Ms. Nelson has inherited a big problem. After decades of helping companies lie to legislators about climate change, the companies themselves and many of their front groups will no longer deny that humans are responsible for unnatural climate variability. But ALEC legislators have not received the memo, and if you ask them about climate change, they sound woefully uninformed. Almost as if they were paid to.
More to come on that.
A wolf pack of in-state utilities and out-of-state petrochemical billionaires has attacked Ohio's clean energy law, threatening to kill clean jobs and wreak further damage on the environment.
This attack is led by Ohio state Senator Bill Seitz (R), who five years earlier voted for the law, but after accepting dirty energy money compared the law to Stalinism. The latest step to stall and dismantle clean energy incentives is the so-called "Energy Mandates Study Committee," or "EMSC." The EMSC was established after previous failed attempts by Sen. Seitz and other Ohio Senators to repeal or weaken the clean energy law.
The EMSC's recent decision to indefinitely stall laws promoting clean, efficient energy and the jobs they produce, is a power grab by coal utilities paying dropping campaign contributions in exchange to the gutting pollution-free clean energy jobs in Ohio.
A review of Ohio campaign finance data reveals some of the money behind these politicians' attack on successful clean energy incentives:
Quid Pro Coal: Dirty Energy funding to Ohio politicians on the "Energy Mandates Study Committee"
Oil & Gas
|Rep. Ron Anstutz||X||$83,100||$35,200||$90,686||$208,986|
|Sen. Bill Seitz||X||$79,125||$25,350||$20,425||$124,900|
|Sen. Cliff Hite||X||$50,085||$2,990||$64,855||$117,950|
|Rep. Kristina Roegner||X||$62,950||$2,150||$28,400||$93,500|
|Sen. Troy Balderson||X||$43,400||$2,450||$30,200||$76,050|
|Sen. Bob Peterson||$31,650||$3,600||$14,850||$50,100|
|Rep. Christina Hagan||X||$24,280||$2,050||$21,900||$48,230|
|Rep. Louis W. Blessing, III||X||$37,578||$1,200||$3,350||$42,128|
|Rep. Jack Cera||$11,000||$1,350||$9,200||$21,550|
|Rep. Mike Stinziano||$16,150||$0||$2,700||$18,850|
|Sen. Sandra Williams||$14,700||$500||$250||$15,450|
|Sen. Capri Cafaro||$12,200||$1,000||$0||$13,200|
ALEC, Clean Energy, and Rigged Markets
The EMSC is stacked with politicians linked to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the corporate bill-mill whose state legislator members help dirty energy lobbyists forge laws rolling back clean energy incentives. Some of ALEC's top "private sector members" include Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Peabody, and Duke Energy.
At recent ALEC meetings, many of these companies sent their lobbyists to rub elbows with state politicians and create template laws in meetings closed to the public. ALEC facilitated the creation of several model bills intended to trip up the booming clean energy industry.
Legislators violate ALEC's core mission of promoting "free markets," giving their fossil fuel sponsors a pass and attacking incentives for their clean competitors at the expense of human health, clean air, clean water and a stable climate. ALEC's cookie-cutter attacks on clean energy have taken various shapes in Ohio, North Carolina, Kansas and a dozen other states.
Quid Pro Coal - What Lobbying Looks Like
The utilities gave the bulk of $466,218 to 12 politicians on Sen. Seitz's committee, documented above. This includes companies directly coordinating with Sen. Seitz, according to his emails.
Ohio utility companies -- FirstEnergy, American Electric Power, Duke Energy, NiSource, AES subsidiary Dayton Power & Light, and the Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives (OREC) -- were directly solicited for input on Seitz's clean energy freeze bill, SB 58, a placeholder bill that preceded Sen. Seitz's study committee. See this timeline, courtesy of Energy & Policy Institute.
Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives is part of a massive consortium of smaller-scale electric co-ops called the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). NRECA is the top contribution to national politicians among all dirty energy interests, even outspending Koch Industries PAC. NRECA's Ohio affiliate gave Sen. Seitz $4,250 in 2012. The next year, OREC lobbyists helped write Sen. Seitz's bill, SB 58, telling a Seitz staffer, "As we discussed,nbsp;attached is suggested language for inclusion in SB 58 with slight modifications."
No such opportunities were provided to clean energy advocates in communication with Sen. Seitz, including several small businesses, the Sierra Club and affiliates of unions like the Steelworkers and AFL-CIO.
Seitz repeatedly dismissed an Ohio State University study, commissioned by Ohio Advanced Energy Economy (OAEE), a group of Ohio businesses advocating for clean energy in Ohio. OAEE President Ted Ford warned Senator Seitz in a letter:
"[W]e can report that the results [of SB 58] are worse for ratepayers than we initially thought. The Ohio State University Study (version 2.0) finds that the bill is a massive giveaway to Ohio utilities, and would cost consumers almost $4 billion between now and 2025. The study also finds the standards have already saved Ohioans 1.4% on their electric bills."
A handwritten note on the letter, apparently written by Senator Seitz, says "more complete fabrications from people with zero credibility." The letter and handwritten commentary were circulated by a Seitz staffer to lobbyists at Duke Energy, American Electric Power, First Energy and others.
Seitz shot back a letter to OAEE and the Ohio Sierra Club, loaded with questions attacking the credibility and relevance of their data, also sourced from the Ohio State University Study.
It turns out, Sen. Seitz prefers his data from out-of-state universities, financed by none other than Kansas billionaire Charles Koch.
Koch University, Inc. - Utah State University
Ohio's coal-burning utilities aren't the only interests helping Seitz behind the scenes. The ALEC senator's study committee relied on data using dishonest measurements from professors at Utah State University (USU) in a department that has taken over $1.6 million from Charles Koch since 2005. USU is among the Charles Koch Foundation's top-funded universities.
It begs the question: Why would Ohio politicians look to Utah professors, financed by a Kansas billionaire, for the data on Ohio's clean energy and efficiency efforts?
The Koch-funded Institute for Political Economy at USU has produced a series of reports that give politicians the bad data needed to attack clean energy. The Koch professors are USU, like the Suffolk professors before them, appear to be intentionally misleading. Foundations affiliated with Koch Industries have backed these Utah professors in identical attacks on renewable energy standards, in Kansas and North Carolina.
Disproved data aside, USU professor Randy Simmons hid his financial conflicts of interest in a national op-ed for Newsweek.
These aren't the only Koch-funded professors stepping up to the plate to bat against wind. Before Utah, it was the Koch-funded Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University. And recently, Kansas University Professor Art Hall was caught taking payments from Koch to study the Kansas renewable energy standard, not long before he told the Kansas legislature to erode the incentives. Hall's previous job: Koch Industries' chief economist.
Koch Industries' executives are pushing "fake it till you make it" into the unknown.
Why the Freeze Makes Zero Sense
It's not the affiliations that matter so much as the false data and backwards hype involved.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the U.S. wind energy trade association, has revealed basic flaws in all three of these Koch-funded professors' reports out of Utah State University. AWEA's Michael Goggin:
Instead of only going back to EIA’s 2013 renewable cost estimates like they did in their Kansas report, in their Ohio report they go back to 2008 cost data to develop their estimate of how the cost of wind energy compares against alternatives.
No explanation is provided for why they did not use EIA’s more recent 2015 and 2014 data, which show that wind energy imposes no net cost relative to conventional sources of energy even after removing the impact of federal incentives. Of course, the authors could have also used recent data from real-world market prices and found that wind energy provides significant net benefits for consumers, as we did above. Instead, using obsolete data allows them to miss how the cost of wind energy has fallen by more than half over the last five years, as documented by both government and private investor data.
Jobs, lower energy bills, less wasted energy...frozen by Senator Seitz
Samantha Williams at Natural Resources Defense Council surveys the data that Senator Seitz refuses to accept:
As of 2013, Ohio was home to over 400 advanced energy companies that employed over 25,000 Ohioans and was leading the country in the number of facilities manufacturing components for wind technology and second in the number of solar equipment providers. A report by the Pew Charitable trusts shows Ohio attracted $1.3 billion in private clean energy investment from 2009 to 2013. Similarly, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) reported that, just prior to the passage of the SB 310 clean energy freeze, Ohio's clean tech economy had grown to support 89,000 jobs.
Unfortunately, much of that hard-earned momentum was a casualty of the freeze as well as HB 483, which basically tripled setbacks for wind turbines and made future commercial-scale development unviable.The renewable sector is particularly lagging, in the E2 report showing a scant 1.5 percent job growth in Ohio far lower than the national wind and solar rate.
Pancake Politics: They Liked this Law in 2008
Sen. Seitz voted along with a large majority of Ohio lawmakers in 2008 to pass the clean energy law. Five years later, Seitz was comparing the clean energy law to "Joseph Stalin's five-year Plan."
Ohio is in the midst of a fossil-fueled flip-flop.
Opposing Action on Climate Change
ALEC's 2015 Annual Meeting Sponsors
President's Level - $100,000
Chair's Level - $50,000
Vice Chair's Level - $20,000
Director's Level - $10,000
Trustee's Level - $5,000
Here's a headline you might expect to see on Reddit's "Not The Onion" page:
Washington Post: This conservative group is tired of being accused of climate denial — and is fighting back
The "conservative group" is ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a lobbyists' policy factory, where corporations vote as equals on "model bills" with state legislators.
The Post notes that ALEC takes issue with the label "climate change denier," after the group's work doing just that led to the departures of major corporate supporters. Two organizations got letters from ALEC's lawyers, insinuating there would be legal action taken for accurately describing ALEC's legacy of denying climate change.
If you want to see how ALEC's own member politicians, lobbyists, and materials deny the science of climate change, check out ALECClimateChangeDenial.org. It's in their own words, so they may have to send a Cease and Desist letter to themselves.
For the record, Greenpeace's feelings are a bit hurt we too didn't get a warning. Did you not see our years of work to expose ALEC's climate change denial?
ALEC may have ignored us, but ALEC's member corporations haven't. Companies ranging from Google to BP to eBay to Northrop Grumman have recently dumped ALEC. Google's chairman said ALEC is "literally lying" about climate change in a surprise announcement to abandon the lobbying group on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show.
This isn't the first time ALEC got turned away at the dance. In the past, ALEC has faced mass corporate defections for its role in spreading lethal Stand Your Ground gun laws across the country and for disenfranchising legitimate voters with "Voter ID" legislation. Over 100 companies have ditched ALEC.
Together, lobbyists and lawmakers create fill-in-the-blank laws to hide chemicals used in fracking (for ExxonMobil), attack renewable energy incentives in the name of "Electricity Freedom" (for The Heartland Institute's corporate clients), and create red tape around the President's plan to reduce carbon pollution from coal plants (for polluters represented by the Edison Electric Institute), and many many more examples of promoting fossil fuels, attacking clean energy competition and denying the science of climate change.
ALEC may be nervous with the attention its operations are getting. ALEC's own lawyers have written about their precarious relationship with IRS tax law, acknowledging they would need to spin off a sister organization and register some staff as lobbyists in order to avoid potential action from the IRS that could affect ALEC's tax-exempt status. For ALEC's member corporations, that's a big deal - it's unclear what liabilities they would face if ALEC's nonprofit status was revoked.
Common Cause - one of the organizations to get these legal threats from ALEC over the "climate denial" exposure - has submitted detailed complaints to the IRS documenting how ALEC operations likely violate their nonprofit status. So far, the IRS has failed to do its job and walk into the shadows of ALEC's operations, where there is every indication that ALEC has crossed the line.
So no hard feelings, Common Cause. You're probably getting the legal letters because ALEC would rather have you arguing about climate science that their questionable relationship with the IRS.
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?
Lisa Nelson, the new CEO of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, doesn't know her organization's position 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.
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.
Click here to add your voice: tell Dominion to Dump ALEC!
- 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:
@PolluterWatch Live Tweets from the Protest:
.@climateprogress Joe Romm: @domvapower support for @ALEC_states is "immoral." 'Corps dont need livable #climate, people do.' #alecexposed — Polluter Watch (@PolluterWatch) September 4, 2014
Romm: Thomas Jefferson wouldnt support ALEC disregard 4 sustainability, #climate policy interference. #alecexposed pic.twitter.com/jdMJTBuIJw — Polluter Watch (@PolluterWatch) September 4, 2014
.@sierraclub's ishmael buckner moderates ALEC protest calling on @domvapower to #DumpALEC! #alecexposed pic.twitter.com/tWztkOwP1s — Polluter Watch (@PolluterWatch) September 4, 2014
Creative paraphrasing of @jonathanlykes: @Domvapower - dont #StandYourGround on bad ALEC anti-person policies! pic.twitter.com/mGmOfs6k2W — Polluter Watch (@PolluterWatch) September 4, 2014
Protest wrapping up - time for @domvapower to #ActOnClimate and dump @alec_states! #alecexposed #standuptoalec pic.twitter.com/bREoWKSfiE — Polluter Watch (@PolluterWatch) September 4, 2014
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.