The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a matchmaking service that connects business interests with conservative lawmakers, drove more than 70 bills in 37 states last year that would have slowed the progress of greentech and clean energy. The group is back this year with a range of new initiatives.
According to Gabe Elsner, executive director of watchdog group the Energy & Policy Institute, ALEC supplies "model" legislation to politicians at the state level who then push efforts to enact the laws as written by the group's utility and fossil fuel industry representatives.
Most of ALEC’s 2013 efforts were defeated through lobbying and grassroots initiatives undertaken by renewables advocates and climate change activists like Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
In 2013, ALEC's legislation targets sought to:
- Roll back renewables mandates
- Undo greenhouse gas emissions regulations
- Cut funding for emissions standards enforcement
- Ease regulatory controls on hydraulic fracturing (fracking)
ALEC’s 2014 efforts, according to Elsner and leaders of other activist groups, would:
- Weaken or eliminate state Renewable Portfolio Standards
- Weaken solar net metering policies
- Open loopholes in disclosure requirements for fracking chemicals
- Turn back federal EPA efforts to regulate GHGs and other power plant pollutants
Three ALEC-linked efforts are designed to limit solar growth, Elsner said. "Duke is working in North Carolina to weaken net metering. Washington state utilities are pushing a 'protectionist' policy to block private solar leasing companies from working there. And legislation to gut solar net metering in Kansas, backed by Kansas utilities, was taken up in an ALEC-chaired committee with five other...ALEC members."
In response to letters from Greenpeace to nine major utilities questioning their support of ALEC, a representative of MidAmerican Energy Holdings and its subsidiaries NV Energy and PacifiCorp said they do not and will not support ALEC efforts, Greenpeace researcher Connor Gibson reported. But Alliant Energy, Ameren, APS, Dominion Resources, NiSource, and PG&E have not responded.
In the view of Brant Olson, campaign manager for climate change awareness initiative Forecast the Facts, one of the most important ALEC-related challenges is halting Google’s ongoing participation in and support of the group. Google is a member of ALEC, according to the company's website, and therefore pays annual dues of at least $7,000 and perhaps more than $25,000, figures Olson bases on his analysis of 2011 ALEC literature.
“That undercuts all of Google’s clean energy goals,” Olson said. “It has invested over $355 million in rooftop solar, but supports an organization doing everything possible to roll back net metering. Why is Google willing to sacrifice its values?”
When contacted to discuss the company's ALEC membership and support, a Google spokesperson declined to comment specifically about ALEC, but did say that it is important for Google to be a part of policy discussions on technology. “We support groups across the political spectrum, but of course don't agree with them on 100 percent of issues.”
The spokesperson would not comment on individual ALEC legislative initiatives, but said Google supports policies that address climate change and those aimed at taking renewable energy to scale like state renewable energy policies, net metering policies, and greenhouse gas emission limits.
Because of ALEC's significant national leverage, this is not an uncommon dilemma for large corporations that support greentech, according to an executive who spoke on background about the many large organizations he works with on policy.
According to Elsner, ALEC’s 2014 efforts in energy and environment beyond the three efforts against solar include the following:
- There are four definite and two likely ALEC-backed efforts against state Renewable Portfolio Standards already this year. They include efforts by ALEC-affiliated legislators in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, and Ohio, as well as ALEC-templated proposals in New Hampshire and New Mexico.
- There are twelve current ALEC-backed efforts to block, weaken, or postpone EPA GHG regulations, according to NRDC Climate Program Special Projects Director Aliya Haq. They include ALEC-designed legislation and legislative resolutions in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
- Finally, there is ALEC-designed legislation pending in Florida, written in conjunction with representatives of the oil and gas industry and endorsed by ExxonMobil, that ostensibly requires disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking but which also contains strategic loopholes that actually protects frackers, according to DeSmogBlog Research Fellow Steve Horn.
Repeated efforts to speak with an ALEC representative or get a statement from the organization about policy issues went unanswered.