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Why 6 Utilities Quietly Dumped ALEC and Others Won't Even Speak of the Lobbying Group

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Why 6 Utilities Quietly Dumped ALEC and Others Won't Even Speak of the Lobbying Group

*Editor's note: This article was updated at 12:50 p.m. with new information.*

After writing letters to nine utility companies that have supported the anti-science, environmental attack campaign waged by a secretive lobbying group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Greenpeace has directly confirmed at least six large U.S. utility companies have ceased supporting the secretive lobbying group in recent years:

  • MidAmerian Energy Holdings Company (MEHC)
  • PacifiCorp—a MEHC subsidiary with distinct ALEC membership as of 2011
  • NV Energy—now a MEHC subsidiary with distinct ALEC membership as of 2011
  • Alliant Energy
  • PG&E
  • Ameren– confirmed at shareholder meeting last week

As ALEC begins its 2014 Spring Task Force Summit in Kansas City, MO, this isn't great news for Corporate America's Trojan Horse in our Statehouses. Last year, ALEC experienced a $1.3 million budget shortfall from an exodus of its corporate members in recent years.

Some of the nation's largest utilities have quietly distanced themselves from the secretive, climate-denying lobbying group. Graphic credit: ALEC

None of these five utilities made any commitment whatsoever to maintain disassociation from ALEC. Instead, they all defended their self-stated commitments to climate and clean energy policies, which Greenpeace's letters referenced and juxtaposed against ALEC's ongoing work to deny climate change science and undermine climate change solutions like renewable energy policies that create jobs and stimulate local economies.

Independent of ALEC, some of these companies continue to resist commonsense clean energy incentives, such as net metering for distributed solar generation. The democratization of electricity production poses a serious threat to monopolistic utility companies, and rather than working to innovate during this massive shift in the energy economy, many utilities are digging in their heels. In the long run, that will not likely turn out to be a wise choice; even King Coal's top lobbyists admits that the industry is outdated, comparing coal's latest pollution control technology to the irrelevant "bag phone" technology of yesteryear.

Several Dirty Utility Companies Won't Talk About ALEC

Four utilities refused to respond to Greenpeace after over two months of repeated outreach through phone, email and fax, indicating how toxic ALEC's brand is even to some of the nation's polluters:

  • Dominion Resources in Richmond, VA
  • Ameren in St. Louis, MO
  • NiSource in Merrillville, IN
  • Arizona Public Service (and holding company Pinnacle West Capital) in Phoenix, AZ

APS rejoined ALEC after a brief eight-month breakup. Perhaps ALEC's clear intent to impose taxes and fees on people and small businesses installing solar panels on their rooftops wooed APS back into its dirty ranks, since APS coordinated with other Koch-funded front groups to run ads promoting fees for solar net metering. APS executives have refused to communicate with Greenpeace.

The nation's largest utility company, Duke Energy, has also refused to discuss ALEC after internal ALEC documents published by The Guardian indicated that Duke's membership lapsed when it merged with Progress Energy. Notes indicated that Duke was simply pausing amid the merger to assign new lobbyists to work with ALEC. In 2012, more than 150,000 people asked Duke to leave ALEC. ALEC has helped Duke block regulations on its toxic coal ash dumps, fought clean energy incentives and disfranchise legitimate American voters.

It's worth noting that all of these utilities can still have proxy involvement in ALEC's dirty work through their membership in the power sector's top trade association, Edison Electric Institute. EEI pays to participates in ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force. ALEC's previous director for its energy and anti-environmental initiatives, climate change denier Todd Wynn, is now Director of External Affairs at EEI.

EEI, ALEC and the utility companies they represent are all engaged in heated battles against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's pending rules for power plants to reduce their carbon emissions, and political attacks on residents and businesses that install small-scale solar arrays and sell extra electricity back to utility companies.

These contemporary fights are consistent with the decades-long use of ALEC by dirty energy giants to deny the science of climate change and oppose any policy solutions to global warming.

ALEC Opens Meeting in Kansas City

Starting today, ALEC meets in Kansas City, MO for its 2014 Spring Task Force Summit, where corporate lobbyists and state legislators will vote in secret on new model bills. Legislators will then return to the states to implement ALEC's Big Business wishlist.

Check out this fresh report on ALEC's impact in Kansas and Missouri in recent years, from Progress Missouri and other groups participating in the "Stand Up To ALEC" initiative.

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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