ALEC Calls for 'Guerilla Warfare' in Weakening Carbon Emissions Standards
By Aliya Haq
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a clandestine network of corporations and conservative state lawmakers, had its annual "policy summit" last week in Washington, D.C. The group held a special session to discuss upcoming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carbon-pollution standards for power plants.
According to reports, ALEC members and industry lawyers encouraged state legislators to limit their states' cooperation with EPA, and even to engage in "guerrilla warfare" to weaken the agency's ability to reduce carbon pollution.
Participants in the closed-door ALEC Environment Task Force meeting at the summit also discussed two draft resolutions (p. 7) to obstruct EPA's carbon pollution standards. InsideEPA reported that ALEC had voted to approve the two model resolutions. These resolutions, when introduced by ALEC members in state legislatures next year, will bear no mark of the corporations that designed them in the ALEC Task Force.
While it is known that American Electric Power chairs that ALEC task force, the current list of corporate members is secret. However, thanks to leaked internal ALEC documents, environmental advocates know the 2011 corporate member participants. They include 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 and Peabody Energy.
ALEC claims it is increasing its transparency, but old habits die hard (if they die at all). Several reporters were refused entry into the conference, including Dana Milbank of The Washington Post and Andy Kroll of Mother Jones. A few handpicked media outlets were allowed to attend the large plenary sessions, but not the task force meetings between lawmakers and corporations.
Considering ALEC is an organization for elected officials, these closed-door sessions—with industries that contribute much of the nation's pollution—are troubling. If corporations lobby elected state officials to obstruct health and safety protections that affect the public, citizens should know which corporations are talking with their representatives and why.
InsideEPA gained access to parts of the meeting, including the special ALEC workshop on EPA power-plant standards. Peter Glaser, a Washington, D.C., lawyer representing electric utilities, coal producers and other large, corporate energy clients, encouraged state lawmakers and industry members to engage in "guerrilla warfare" against EPA to weaken carbon-pollution standards on power plants.
"Keep banging on pots and pans. Make noise," urged the Washington lawyer. A representative from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) also spoke at the ALEC workshop against EPA power-plant rules. NAM is a major association of industries, including coal, oil and electric utility corporations, and has a long-standing opposition to limiting carbon pollution and countering climate change.
Last week, The Guardian published dozens of pages of secret ALEC documents and broke several excellent stories on ALEC, including a piece detailing more of the group’s anti-environmental agenda for 2014. In addition to attempting to hinder EPA action, the secretive organization will continue its attacks on state renewable energy policies. It will also begin to attack net-metering policies that allow rooftop solar panel owners to recover costs by selling their excess electricity to utilities.
Despite ALEC's attempts to keep journalists out of their affairs, the group's agenda has been exposed. Let's hope that reasonable state lawmakers ignore ALEC's calls for warfare, and let their governors and state agencies engage constructively with EPA to clean up carbon pollution.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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