ALEC Doesn’t Care About #FreeMarkets – Explaining ALEC’s Shill Bills
by Connor Gibson
May 2, 2014
Today in Kansas City, Missouri, the American Legislative Exchange Council is bringing your state legislators to a closed-door meeting with corporate lobbyists to ghostwrite “model” laws to bring to your state.
As usual, ALEC’s latest conference will be painted with patriotic rhetoric and all of the typical buzzwords: “free markets,” “liberty,” “Jeffersonian,” “Prosperity,”…you get the gist. But in typical political & public relations fashion, these words are a feeble shell obscuring an anti-populist, Big Business lobbying campaign.
The American Legislative Exchange Council doesn’t care about free markets. I know it says it does, and I know they’re Tweeting with the #FreeMarkets hashtag today, but ALEC doesn’t honor the concept by any means. This is easily proven by the extremely narrow range ALEC’s own pay-to-pollute policies.
A simple glance through ALEC’s catalog of dirty energy bills reveals a limited range of work serving the corporations and billionaires bankrolling its operations–not exactly a genuine libertarian utopia. Of ALEC’s 25 “energy” model bills, 24 serve fossil fuel interests and undermine clean energy, as documented in full below.
This may interest ALEC’s friends who actually do care about free markets, since ALEC actively works against the concept when its member companies demand so. Case in point: tea party and free market groups like Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed (TUSK) are pushing back on ALEC and its monopolistic utility members for attempting to impose fees on distributed solar electricity generation.
ALEC considers people installing solar panels on their rooftops and feeding extra electricity into the grid to be “freeriders,” and will host a luncheon today to discuss how ALEC legislators can help utilities and the Koch brothers make small-scale solar electricity generation more costly.
Greenpeace just confirmed that at least six utility companies quietly dumped ALEC in recent years. These utilities made no promise to maintain disassociation but responded with a rhetorical defense of their commitments to climate and sustainability initiatives, which is completely counter to ALEC’s ongoing work.
Undeniable Anti-Free Market Trend in ALEC’s Polluter Policies:
ALEC has many bills in a few narrow categories that all expand power and government resources for fossil fuel and nuclear companies, complimented by model bills to stifle competition from renewable energy and fuel interests.
How many of these ALEC bills promote renewable energy or renewable fuels? How many ALEC bills propose repeals of coal, oil, gas or nuclear subsidies?
The closest ALEC comes is a single model bill to exempt some energy efficient appliances from state & local sales and use tax focuses on consumer-level activity rather than broad systemic issues of infrastructure, pollution reduction, 0r science-based climate policy. This means 24 of ALEC’s 25 “energy” bills are handouts to polluters.
Here’s a rundown of ALEC’s dirty energy bills, which ALEC’s staff routinely characterize in order to sell these bad ideas to the American public. Check for yourself, and call out the only thing ALEC has ever recycled: dishonesty.
ALEC bills Promoting, Protecting or Expanding the Use of Fossil Fuel & Nuclear Fuels: 16
- Power Plant Siting Act – streamlines coal & nuclear plant construction siting
- Resolution in Support of Energy Security, Production, Distribution, Environmental Protection and Economic Growth in the United States – urges Congress to offer special protection to the coal industry as clean energy growths creates more competition
- Resolution on Mandatory Electricity Consumer Disclosure Information – urges Congress to forbid mandatory disclosure by utilities of their electricity sources. This would cut off consumers’ ability to make decisions about which types of energy they prefer. For instance, a consumer wouldn’t be able to access information on an energy source’s “nonpower attributes” like pollution, carbon intensity, and fuel type, and wouldn’t be able to chose which energy sources to support. This is a way for polluting companies to reduce attention to benefits of clean energy.
- Resolution on Best Available Control Technology For Coal-Based Electric Generation – “interprets” coal pollution control laws in ways that are more favorable to coal companies
- Utility Construction Review Act – with key provisions of Construction Work In Progress (CWIP), this bill allows utility companies to charge their ratepayers for construction projects before the construction begins, placing financial burden and risk on consumers. CWIP is most commonly associated with prohibitively expensive nuclear projects.
- Intrastate Coal and Use Act – removes federal environmental oversight of coal that is mined and used within a single state
- Intrastate Oil and Gas Use Act – removes federal environmental oversight of oil & gas that is extracted and used within a single state
- Resolution on Responsible Resource Development – a resolution pressuring federal politicians and agencies to remain absent from oil & gas fracking oversight, placing all regulatory burden on the states, which lack capacity for safe oversight.
- Resolution Requesting that the Federal Government Confer and Consult with the States on Management of Public Lands and Energy Resources – one of ALEC’s model policies to decrease federal control of public land. Fossil fuel extractors generally have an easier time lobbying and obtaining land through state authorities where political resources are more limited.
- Resolution to Retain State Authority over Hydraulic Fracturing – created to block pending US Environmental Protection Agency regulation of fracking by placing oversight with state regulators, who lack capacity for safe oversight.
- Resolution Urging Congress to End the Outer Continental Shelf Moratorium on Oil and Natural Gas Exploration and Production – puts state-level pressure on Congress to expand offshore oil drilling on the U.S. coastline and give states jurisdiction over offshore drilling near their coastal borders. ALEC “retired” this model bill at its December 2013 meeting in Washington, DC.
- Pipeline Replacement and Infrastructure Modernization and Enhancement Act – would allow gas pipeline operators to replace pipes on the dime of electricity ratepayers
- Resolution in Support of the Keystone XL Pipeline – state legislative pressure on Congress and the U.S. State Department to fully-approve TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada Pipelines is a member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force.
- The Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act – pushed through ALEC by ExxonMobil, this false “disclosure” bill actually serves to keep fracking chemicals secret from the public
- Resolution Urging Quick Congressional Action on the Recommendations of The Blue Ribbon Commission on Americas Nuclear Future – state pressure on Congress and the Executive branch to fast track a non-permanent radioactive nuclear waste disposal locations
- Resolution Urging the President and Congress to Act Expeditiously in Procuring a Site or Sites for the Storage of High-Level Radioactive Waste – state pressure on Congress and the President to hasten finding storage sites for radioactive nuclear waste
ALEC bills Promoting, Protecting or Expanding the Use of Renewable Energy & Renewable Fuels: 0
ALEC bills to Undermine Clean Energy Incentives or Development and promote use of Fossil Fuel and Nuclear Energy: 8
- Electricity Freedom Act – repeals state Renewable Portfolio Standards
- Renewable Energy Credit Act – weakens state Renewable Portfolio Standards provisions for new clean energy development by flooding RPS market with out-of-state Renewable Energy Credits, which have varying definitions of “renewable” depending on the region
- Resolution on Renewable Energy Resources in a Competitive Electricity Marketplace – opposes laws directing utilities to increase clean energy generation, such as Renewable Portfolio Standards
- The Energy Affordability and Reliability Act – creates a regulatory hurdle for clean energy by assignig an economic review using metrics guaranteed to favor fossil fuels without considering the massive external costs they pose on society that create demand for clean energy (pollution, health problems, climate change)
- The Market-Power Renewables Act – long-term repeal of state Renewable Portfolio Standards that replaces RPS with a voluntary program relying upon out of state Renewable Energy Credits, which have varying definitions of “renewable” depending on the region
- Updating Net Metering Policies Resolution – imposes fees on residents and small business owners who spend their own money installing solar panels and are compensated by utilities when feeding excess electricity back into the grid.
- Resolution on Alternative Fuels – state pressure to block Federal programs for increasing use of alternative fuels, ensuring less competition with the oil industry
- Restrictions on Participation in Low-Carbon Fuel Standards Programs – would prevent laws that phase out the dirtiest fuels, such as gasoline refined from tar sands crude oil
ALEC bills to Undermine Fossil Fuel & Nuclear Power Incentives or Development: 0
ALEC bills to promote energy efficiency: 1
- Energy Efficiency and Savings Act – exempts some consumer products from sales & use tax if they qualify for federal energy efficiency programs.
ALEC bills to undermine energy efficiency: 1
- Resolution on Energy Conservation – seeks to prevent federal rules on energy conservation by limiting control to the states
The bills listed above are only ALEC’s energy model policies–ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force has dozens of other model policies that attack environmental safeguards designed to keep our air and water cleaner than polluting companies would bother to do themselves without enforcement.
ALEC Loves Subsidies
ALEC ignores the $478.8 billion that oil companies have received in government subsidies since 1918, compared to $67.6 for the renewable energy sector since 1979 (in 2013 dollars). Nor does ALEC attempt to grapple with the massive costs that oil, gas and coal companies impose on society like air and water pollution, freshwater depletion, and global climate change, which itself creates and aggregates a wide range of costs that people are already feeling.
ALEC Field Trip to Coal Plant
Consistent with how ALEC‘s model policies favor dirty energy, ALEC’s legislators apparently take more interest in fossil fuel infrastructure. Yesterday, ALEC legislators took a field trip to the Kansas City Power & Light Hawthorne Generating station, a coal and gas power plant–check this giant pile of coal Tweeted by North Dakota state Rep. Vicky Steiner.
Somehow, I doubt they checked out the solar panels on the roof of the Marriott, where the ALEC conference is being hosted.
The united attacks on clean energy from dirty energy companies, ALEC and the State Policy Network has been creeping its way into the national consciousness, thanks to watchdogs and journalists who are keen on their secretive activities to keep the United States’ energy portfolio stuck in the 20th Century. Check out recent reporting in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow (note PolitiFact’s clarifications) and Chris Hayes, The Guardian, and Huffington Post and the New Republic.
You can look to groups like Greenpeace, NRDC, the Energy and Policy Institute, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch for an ongoing window in to ALEC’s lobbying on behalf of polluters.