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ALEC preparing attacks on EPA carbon pollution standards

Aliya Haq

Posted December 3, 2013

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coal plant_virtual scott.jpgThis week, the polluter-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is holding its annual meeting in DC, and the obstruction of EPA progress to reduce carbon pollution is front and center on its Environment Task Force agenda. ALEC conferences create a space for corporations and conservative lawmakers to create model legislation that any state legislator can introduce. American Electric Power is the current chair of ALEC’s environment task force.

After the killing of Trayvon Martin in February 2012, ALEC became notorious for its promotion of Stand Your Ground gun laws in states, losing financial and political support. A Guardian article published today reveals that ALEC has lost nearly 60 corporate members and hundreds of state legislators from its network in the last two years. While ALEC addresses a wide range of issues, including health care and anti-union bills, the agenda for this week’s ALEC conference has a big focus on EPA power plant rules. Hindering state action to reduce carbon pollution will likely be an ALEC priority in state legislatures next year.

According to the agenda, tomorrow is the "EPA working group session" to develop "tools and strategies legislators and private sector members can employ to respond to EPA's proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and forthcoming rule for existing sources."  On Friday, the ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force will convene to discuss three pieces of model legislation. Two of these three ALEC resolutions focus on EPA’s plans to limit carbon pollution. Resolutions are toothless with no real force of law, but they make fodder for polluters and their allies who use them as a political maneuver to decry EPA’s work.

The first draft model bill, the “Resolution in Response to EPA’s Plan to Regulate Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act,” (p. 7), attempts to bolster opposition to carbon standards by floating the tired canard that protecting public health from dangerous power plant pollution isn’t compatible with “providing affordable, reliable, and safe electric power.”

The second draft bill, the “Resolution Concerning EPA Proposed Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards for New and Existing Fossil-Fuel Power Plants,” (p. 8-10), reads somewhat like a back-up plan, grudgingly accepting carbon standards but urging states to ask EPA to create separate standards for coal plants and encourage use of “domestic energy sources” that are “affordable and reliable.”

Past ALEC model resolutions have directly opposed many federal and state efforts to reduce carbon pollution. The New York Times reported that past ALEC internal task force documents have noted which corporate members wrote and supported certain model bills, citing an example that ExxonMobil sponsored an ALEC bill containing loopholes regarding fracking fluid disclosure. Unfortunately, recent ALEC documents do not list the corporate sponsors of ALEC bills, nor does the conference agenda list the current corporate members of the ALEC Environment Task Force.

Documents obtained by Common Cause show that members of ALEC (p 52) attending a 2011 Environment Task Force meeting included a number of private sector members with an interest in slowing down carbon pollution standards, including: Alliant Energy; American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE); American Electric Power Company; American Gas Association; American Petroleum Institute; BP; Duke Energy Corporation; Edison Electric Institute; Exxon Mobil Corporation; National Rural Electric Cooperative Association; and Peabody Energy.

As EPA continues to implement its part of the President’s Climate Action Plan, we can expect to see more activity from ALEC attempting to stymie EPA efforts. Let’s hope state legislators aren’t fooled and are able to identify ALEC’s fingerprints on bad model bills. 



Image source: Flickr User Virtual Scott

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Michael BerndtsonDec 4 2013 02:53 PM

Interesting stuff. This idea might be nuts, but par for the course coming from my brain. Why not give a little into ALEC's demands on carbon emissions? Carbon emissions controls chiefly gives natural gas an advantage over coal, maybe even nuclear but not all that much for renewables. So let the fossil/nuke guys battle it out among themselves, without them having environmentalists to push around anymore. Here's why:

1) Natural gas using combined/duel turbines far outweighs coal economically when considering a 30 year operating life. This may peel off GE and other corporations from the ALEC group. Therefore the decision becomes purely market based and removes bad environmentalists talking points for Heritage and others.

2) Natural gas may not be the climate change fighter we once thought it was. Plus it's like switching from the Big Mac Meal Deal #4 w/super sized coke and fries to Two Cheese Burger Meal Deal #2 w/ regular fries and diet coke to lose weight.

3) Wind is becoming an obvious choice and many red states are seeing the benefits, i.e. $$$$. Well, Texas does at least. I'm thinking OK, KS, NE, SD and ND located in the Saudi Arabia of wind Great Plains zone may be dragging their feet for freedom(TM) and/or just because.

4) Solar is becoming just too awesome to be avoided regardless of how it becomes electricity. Between efficiency and performance gains in PV, concentrated solar (Tulip in Israel) and battery storage, respectively, it just makes those against it look like complete idiots. Plus the tea party isolationists are coming around to its benefits. Maybe for their compounds in the woods.

5) Give ALEC some wiggle room on carbon emissions, while holding tight on stringent controls for mercury (and other metals), sulfur and soot emissions. There's really no confusion on the health impacts of those constituents of concern versus carbon dioxide. Radiative forcing and climate change isn't as easy to explain as heavy metals and brain damage.

6) Demographically speaking the US populace is becoming more health conscious. Not necessarily due to lifestyle changes of the educated upper middle class. But the growing hispanic and asian demographics of the middle class. Simply anecdotally speaking wise, hispanics and asians eat better food and are more concerned about environmental pollutants than the population at large. That's also where the growth is. This comment is based on chit chats with neighbors, that PBS show on building of the transcontinental railroad and family lore. My town is mostly hispanic. And my Irish ancestors ate like crap building the railroad from Chicago west compared to the Chinese building from San Francisco east. So given this meandering preamble, there's a real concern about coal combustion and clean air. Compared to the indifference about climate change. More importantly asians are seeing the blatantly obvious impacts of pollution at home and in the news. Breathing clean air is probably the focus over climate change for many.

This is sort of a "tug & release a-war" strategy that may not work, but at least it may cause ALEC and others to fall back on their behinds after environmentalists let go of the rope. Plus it would be the entire problem of climate change acceleration on them (i.e., fossil fuel). Making them defend their actions for once.

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