skip to main content

→ Top Stories:
Clean Power plan
Safe Chemicals

Frances Beinecke’s Blog

ALEC and Big Polluters Try to Attack Limits on Climate Change Pollution One State at a Time

Frances Beinecke

Posted March 28, 2014

, , , , , , , , , ,
Share | | |

Last week the Kentucky legislature passed a bill to undermine national standards to reduce climate change pollution. The bill would prop up the profits of Kentucky’s biggest polluters while saddling ordinary Kentuckians with higher electricity bills.

A coal-friendly bill may not be surprising in Kentucky, but this effort didn’t originate in the Bluegrass State. The bill’s language mirrors legislation being pushed in statehouses across the country by the American Legislative Exchange Council—a cabal of corporate giants and Tea Party supporters including the Koch brothers, Peabody Coal, ExxonMobil, and other fossil fuel companies.

ALEC is known for creating “model bills” designed to shrink public safeguards and protections. Often the bills are drafted by the very industry that would benefit from them the most. Now ALEC is trying to use state legislatures to block our country’s most significant effort to clean up the air and stabilize the climate. 

Power plants belch out 40 percent of all carbon pollution in the United States. That pollution drives climate change and threatens our health with asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. And yet there are no national limits on how much carbon these plants can dump into our atmosphere.


The Environmental Protection Agency is about to change that. In June it will propose carbon pollution limits for power plants. Strong limits could yield up to $60 billion in avoided climate change and medical costs in 2020, according to NRDC analysis. They would also create a net increase of 210,000 jobs in 2020 and reduce household electric bills. This is a win-win for our economy and our families.

Yet coal companies and other polluters are fighting carbon limits at every turn, and some have turned to ALEC’s “model bill” factory to thwart them at the state level. ALEC’s sample language has already spawned more than a dozen resolutions in state legislatures, all of them attacking the EPA’s efforts to reduce carbon pollution and protect public health.

Legislation based on ALEC language has been introduced in seven states. These bills would be more legally binding than resolutions, and they would hamstring states’ ability to meet their carbon reduction targets. The Kentucky bill, for instance, would favor dirty coal-fired plants by preventing the state from using the least expensive methods to reduce carbon pollution.

That bill sailed through the Kentucky legislature—even though Governor Beshear has already started a responsible effort to meet national clean air standards and protect Kentucky energy consumers—but ALEC isn’t always so successful. Lawmakers in Virginia and Florida blocked the polluters’ bills. Cooler heads prevailed in Kansas and even in coal-dominated West Virginia where legislatures stepped back from the brink and passed bills that allow state officials to write a carbon reduction plans that could meet the nation’s clean air laws.

ALEC prefers to operate in the shadows, relying on backroom deals and private donor lists, but when their actions come to light, people mobilize. Last year, ALEC’s attempts to repeal state clean energy standards failed in every state because residents value clean energy resources that make their air safer to breathe and creates jobs. Kansas and North Carolina, for instance, beat back ALEC-funded attacks, in part because wind farms have created more than 12,300 jobs in Kansas, and the clean energy economy has generated more than 11,500 jobs for North Carolina in the past two years alone.

People also see the value of holding polluters accountable for dangerous carbon emissions. More than two-thirds of voters in battleground states say the EPA should limit carbon pollution from power plants, according to a recent poll conducted for the NRDC Action Fund.

This groundswell of support is the most effective weapon against ALEC’s stealth agenda. Ask your local representatives if there is an ALEC “model bill” in your state and call on them to put public health, clean energy, and a stable climate above the interests of a few polluting industries.


Photo credit: Tim Hoeflich




Share | | |


Michael BerndtsonMar 28 2014 04:30 PM

I'm guessing the oil and gas wouldn't be helping out coal (via ALEC), if renewables weren't doing as well as they are. For awhile I thought O&G was throwing coal under a bus - acting all concerned about the environment and stuff - to move into the electricity generation market. At this point in time, it appears that renewables are nipping at the heels of gas and coal on price alone. Nevermind environmental issues.

You'd think O&G would embrace other energy sources. Then again, O&G doesn't do research and development, much. They hardly even do petroleum and chemical engineering anymore. Even its core technical is increasingly contracted out. What's left is commodity trading and politician arm twisting. That's also where the money's at.

anonymousMar 28 2014 09:45 PM

You keep referring to ALEC's actions as "their". That bestows corporate personhood. Until Texas executes a convicted corporation, I cannot accept that a corporation is a person.

So please, when referring to ALEC or any other corporation, use the correct pronoun--it.

Nancy RappMar 29 2014 02:46 PM

More than anything, Texas is plagued by its location. Ancient buried pipelines, the fact that so many refineries are still in use today are being pushed into the press as good-paying jobs, even wind and solar energies are vanquished from T,V, ads due to the agenda that ALEC has been working on for decades.

I'm glad to see that the voting public is getting wiser and working against ALEC now that they have realized that it is nothing more than a poison pill.

There is nothing more precious than clean air and water, and it's about time we get serious about these issues, because they will kill us if we don't act NOW. We can't wait for an industry to police itself. THAT is NOT how over-sight in business should be conducted..

I'm glad that President Obama is giving some teeth to the EPA, so that they can do their jobs without having lobbying in their way.

We MUST stand behind our President for a clean, energy-efficient future. I thank him for his courage and foresight, and hope you will give him your support, too!!

dimitri stevanatoMar 30 2014 06:40 AM

Very good information

JakeMar 30 2014 05:51 PM

Fascinating. I had no idea that "carbon pollution" (aka carbon dioxide) causes asthma attacks and respiratory problems. Would you care to back that up with a scientific study?

In referenc to:

"Power plants belch out 40 percent of all carbon pollution in the United States. That pollution drives climate change and threatens our health with asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. And yet there are no national limits on how much carbon these plants can dump into our atmosphere."

Only a moron would believe this crap. So if I exhale towards another person, should I be arrested for endangering their respiratory health?

Michael BerndtsonMar 31 2014 08:22 AM

The quote in your comment didn't say that carbon dioxide is the cause for respiratory problems. On the other hand, as we all learned from the movie Apollo 13, if the system is a tightly closed space ship that includes three astronauts, then carbon dioxide greatly impacts respiration.

Here's my guess at what the quote is implying: coal plants contribute to 40 percent of the carbon pollution in terms of atmospheric emissions. Since the express purpose of a coal fired power plant is to turn chemical potential energy into electric power, carbon pollution could be anything derived from combusting coal that isn't electricity - or put to use for something else. Some folks think of coal fired power plants as simply carbon dioxide plants. Carbon dioxide as a product and not a pollutant. That would be silly. So carbon pollution as waste products could be various things including: greenhouse gases, nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), soot, incomplete products of combustion, flue gas, inorganic solids and carbon dioxide.

So to sum up. I'm guessing that NRDC has to work in circles beyond those peopled by mechanical and chemical engineers. Now that would suck. Here's the scenario: You work for NRDC. You're a brilliant, liberal arts type, go-getter of a person and every day for 8 hours a day, you have to sit in meetings full of engineers, discussing the finer points of each one's trade.

Oak Ridge National Labs (in Tennessee) prepared a nice FAQ. Your question was answered as follows:

Should we be concerned with human breathing as a source of CO2?
No. While people do exhale carbon dioxide (the rate is approximately 1 kg per day, and it depends strongly on the person's activity level), this carbon dioxide includes carbon that was originally taken out of the carbon dioxide in the air by plants through photosynthesis - whether you eat the plants directly or animals that eat the plants. Thus, there is a closed loop, with no net addition to the atmosphere. Of course, the agriculture, food processing, and marketing industries use energy (in many cases based on the combustion of fossil fuels), but their emissions of carbon dioxide are captured in our estimates as emissions from solid, liquid, or gaseous fuels.

Gordon ChamberlainApr 2 2014 10:37 AM

Are politicians in collusion with corporations capable of causing extensive damage to fish, forests, water, soil, to endangered species, to ocean and terrestrial ecosystems, to our planets climate? The campaign is being waged to have extensive damage to our environment, the web of life recognized as a criminal act, as ecocide. We are not on a sustainable path and the response of some politicians and Exxon's for example to the threats of climate destabilisation demonstrate what must come to be recognized as criminal negligence as committing ecocide.
This is about the phychology of a group who once though slavery and colonalism were good business models. It is about criminal values, it is about the ability to ignore, hide, sabotage, corrupt democracies. I invite you to watch the doc The Big Fix The Big Fix - BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Cover up ‎Dec 27, 2012 - Uploaded by James Varty
This documentary examines the April 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico following the sinking of the oil drilling rig, the spraying of toxic dispersant banned in the UK and the corrupt influence petroleum corporations are having on politicians in the US and around the world. US senators are interviewed as to the threats corporations and their lobbyists pose. To find out more about prosecuting ecocide visit and End Ecocide EU on facebook

Comments are closed for this post.


Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

Feeds: Frances Beinecke’s blog

Feeds: Stay Plugged In