Virginia: Ken Cuccinelli’s Clean Energy Rollback Mirrors ALEC Agenda

by Connor Gibson

January 30, 2013

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelliis working with coal companies and State Policy Network groups backed by Koch Industries to rollback VA's voluntary clean energy program. In states across the country, the American Legislative Exchange Council--or ALEC--and other State Policy Network groups are lining up to roll back clean energy laws, an effort complimented by captured politicians like Mr. Cuccinelli. Ken Cuccinelliis aformer ALEC member, and he's working with ALEC member company Dominion Resources to end Virginia's clean energy program. The same Dominion that just gave him $10,000 for his run for governor, on top of almost $46,000 in previous years for other political positions. While Virginia'svoluntary renewable portfolio standardis far from perfect, it's neither helpful nor inspiring for Mr. Cuccinelli to scrap the program altogether on behalf of a few vested dirty energy interests. Rather, as Chesapeake Climate Action Network suggests, Virginia's law needs to be strengthened in ways that increase clean energy production and the good jobs that come with it. Both Cuccinelli and CCAN agree the law has flaws and loopholes that don't properly incentivize new clean energy development within the state of Virginia. Some of the law's weaknesses:
  • Dominion Virginia and Appalachian Power have each qualified for ratepayer subsidies without actually building any new clean energy facilities in Virginia.
  • The law's loose definition of "renewable energy" ensures that filthy energy qualifies for government support, including burning gas collected from landfills and producing energy from trash incineration, which is dirtier than burning coal and are usually located in areas with disproportionately high populations of people living in poverty, often people of color.
  • Unambitious targets for the proportion of renewable energy production by 2025.
  • The program is voluntary in the first place.
So far, Mr. Cuccinelli has not seemed to notice legislation alternativesproposed by CCAN that would "tie any RPS bonuses to investment in Virginia-made wind and solar energy. This solution will ensure that Virginians are getting the benefits of a cleaner environment. It also creates a market that fosters growth in the renewable energy sector which will create thousands of jobs within our borders."

Ken Cuccinelli and Climate Science Intimidation:

The point of making clean energy competitive with dirty fossil fuels is to keep our air and water clean and avoid runaway climate change, an issue where Ken Cuccinelli has been aggressively counterproductive. Mr.Cuccinelliis well known for his harassment of Michael Mann, a climate scientist vilified by industry apologists for creating the "Hockey Stick" graph illustrating the increase of average global temperature measurements over the last millennium. Mirroring the scientifically unfounded attacks ofState Policy Networkoutfits like theCompetitive Enterprise InstituteandAmerican Tradition Institute,Cuccinelliwas heavily criticized by a Virginia judge for not having an "objective basis" for accusations of fraudulent research at the University of Virginia.Cuccinelli's persecution of science has evenput off other climate science deniers, according to a Greenpeace Freedom of Information Act request. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="270" caption="Ken Cuccinelli speaking at a 2011 Americans for Prosperity conference. Source: Americans for Prosperity Flickr photostream."][/caption] Demonstrating direct cooperation with Koch-funded State Policy Network groups, KenCuccinelli will attend an Americans for Prosperityeventin Richmond, VA on February 7. Tea Party activists will be bussed in on the dime of Koch and other AFP donors to hearCuccinellispeak along with David Koch's top PR captain--AFP president Tim Phillips--and other Virginia politicians likeLt. Governor Bill Bolling. We'll see if the renewable energy rollback is a point of discussion at AFP's event. Americans for Prosperity has promoted a fossil fuel agenda since David Koch helped re-birth AFP from its predecessor, Citizens for a Sound Economy, which was also run by the Kochs and Koch Industries executive Richard Fink.

Ken Cuccinelli's Dirty Money:

Mr. Cuccinelli's financial conflicts of interest have drawn extra attention to this discussion on Virginia's commitment to renewable energy.Huffington Post reported that Intrust Wealth Management, a company whose board of directors has included Charles Koch since 1982, gaveCuccinelli$50,000 for his failed gubernatorial election bid, on top of a previous $10,000 from Koch Industries. Also on theCuccinellipayroll werecoal interests like Dominion Energy, CONSOL Energy and Alpha Natural Resources (which purchased the mountain top removal menace, Massey Energy). Mr.Cuccinelliis used to being bankrolled by dirty interests. According to the National Institute for Money in State Politics, from 2003-2011 the following interests were top supporters ofhis VA Senate and Attorney General election campaigns:
    • $46,500 from Dominion Resources --ALEC member
    • $42,000 from Alpha Natural Resources
    • $10,000 from Massey Energy -- merged with Alpha after a fatal mining disaster
    • $33,000 from Consol Energy
    • $16,750 American Electric Power --ALEC member
    • $6,996 from the Virginia Coal Association
    • $6,550 from Norfolk Southern, a railroad company thattransports and markets coal
    • $24,500 from Altria (owns Phillip Morris) --ALEC member, ALEC Private Enterprise Boardmember
    • $10,000 from U.S. Smokeless Tobacco (owned by Altria)
    • $12,500 from Bailey's Cigarettes
    • $11,000 from S&M Brands (owned by Bailey's)
  • GUN LOBBY:$17,000
    • $17,000 from the National Rifle Association (many of the illegal guns in this country are from Virginia gun shows) --ALEC member
    • $11,250 from Hunton & Williams, a corporate lobbying firm that runs the coal front group Utility Air Regulatory Group(UARG) to interfere with EPA pollution controls. Hunton was also caught up in ascandal to monitor and smear political opponentsof Bank of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
    • $8,312 from Troutman Sanders, a corporate lobbying firm that has recentlyrepresented coal and tobacco interestslike Duke Energy, the National Mining Association, Southern Company, Peabody Energy, and Altria.
Dirty energy interests like Dominion, AEP, Duke Energy, Peabody and others are using their political allies and groups like ALEC alike to attack renewable energy across the board, in coordination with a familiar public relations play that victimizes dirty coal operations and mocks all forms of clean energy. Coal pollution from companies like these prematurely kill thousands of Americans each year.The Clean Air Task Force notes that government action to reduce coal pollution has a direct effect on reducing these needless deaths. A peer-reviewedreport by the late Paul Epstein in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences estimated up to $500 billion--half a trillion dollars--in annual costs to society from the life cycle of coal. Clean energy generation doesn't pose the same terrible threats to our economy, air, water, health, and the global climate that life on this planet is adapted to, but good luck telling that to Ken Cuccinelli, another politician captured by the pollution lobby.
Connor Gibson

By Connor Gibson

Connor Gibson does research for Greenpeace's Investigations team. He focuses on polluting industries, their front groups and PR operatives, particularly focusing on the Koch Brothers.

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