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Why ALEC's Attacks on Renewable Energy Failed Nationwide
Though nonprofit organizations and educators have recently touted clean energy as an alternative to carbon-polluting fossil fuels, a new report shows the lengths others have gone to prevent the growth of renewables.
The latest report from ProgressNow details how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) attempted to curtail renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in states across the country in 2013, to no avail.
"In contrast to economic rationality, and in defense of its corporate benefactors, ALEC attacked RPS throughout the states," the report reads. "[Thirty-seven] bills throughout the nation sought to roll back the nation’s varied RPS policies. ALEC’s bill failed to eliminate any standard, while four states even increased their standard."
Those standards establish minimum requirements for renewable use at state utilities. ProgressNow and the groups that support the organization found that ALEC set the stage for its rollback attempts a year ago in Salt Lake City, where it hosted an Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force (EEA) meeting with "the top echelon of fossil fuel interests and alternative energy opponents."
ALEC's Electricity Freedom Act was birthed at that meeting by fossil fuel titans looking to eliminate legislation in 29 states that had previously set various percentages and wattage amounts of renewable energy to be used by utilities. Officials at Koch Industries and Exxon Mobil are among those listed on ALEC's Private Enterprise Council.
The Electricity Freedom Act characterized RPS as "essentially a tax on consumers of electricity that forces the use of renewable energy sources beyond what would be called for by real market forces." Most of the anti-RPS legislation failed to make it beyond the introductory stage.
"They have almost no success," said Brian Wietgrefe, national research director at ProgressNow, told Huffington Post. "It's because it works—the policies work."
The report also shows efforts in several states to allow fracking companies to exclude chemical ingredients from their reports to state agencies, deeming them "trade secrets."
"[The Disclosure Of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act] is a Trojan horse," the report reads. "Using the guise of disclosure, the bill creates a loophole. Instead of the companies actually being required to disclose the chemicals, it effectively allows fracking corporations to disclose the information they want to disclose.
"And because the bill is not retroactive, and 1.1 million wells have been fracked since 1949, many operators will never have to disclose anything about what is present due to the fracking process."
Connor Gibson, a researcher at Greenpeace, pins the failure of ALEC-supported rollbacks on a simple observation—people like the benefits of renewable energy.
"It's very clear that people are being employed in part due to these incentives," Gibson said. "When people start seeing solar arrays [and] wind farms that are employing people in their districts, it becomes hard to roll back incentives."
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As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.