Google, Facebook and Yahoo dump ALEC over climate denial. Meanwhile, ALEC calls for "political tsunami" against EPA

Updated 9/25/14, 11:12 am ET

Google Eric Schmidt_flickr user DFarber.jpg

Photo credit: Flickr User DFarber

This week, Google, Facebook and Yahoo all announced that they are leaving the polluter-funded, climate-denying American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Yelp also confirmed on Wednesday that they left ALEC several months ago. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt's remarks about ALEC and its climate denial are among my all-time favorite quotes about the secretive corporate-lawmaker cabal:

"They're just...they're just literally lying."

ALEC's corporate members, many of which are heavily polluting industries, write model legislation for state lawmakers to introduce as their own bills. The organization has been behind activity in dozens of state legislatures to oppose limits on carbon pollution and to obstruct U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) power plant standards. During its Dallas conference this summer, ALEC member Peabody Coal urged attendees to incite a "political tsunami" against EPA's proposal.

On Monday, Schmidt indicated during the Diane Rehm show on NPR that Google would cut its ties specifically because of ALEC's climate denial positions, and the company confirmed it will not renew its ALEC membership at the end of this year. The next day, Facebook notified the San Francisco Chronicle that they will also let their membership lapse due to ALEC's denial of climate change. 

A huge kudos and congratulations goes out to Forecast the FactsCommon Cause, and the other organizations who have been working for months to get Google and other tech companies to dump ALEC. In part because of such efforts, in August Microsoft also announced it had left ALEC because of actions that "conflicted directly with Microsoft's values."

In ALEC's statement responding to Google's announcement, they carefully sidestep -- well, actually, they blatantly sidestep -- Eric Schmidt's reasons for leaving. Instead of addressing their climate denial actions, ALEC's CEO Lisa Nelson spins Google's departure as a misunderstanding about renewable energy policies. The implication is that Google just got confused, and actually they, like, totally agree about stuff like opposing renewable energy.

In reality, these forward-looking, innovative tech companies are not aligned with ALEC in the slightest on climate or clean energy issues. Eric Schmidt's declaration that ALEC is "just literally lying" is right on the nose. At their Dallas conference this summer, ALEC brought in the president of the notorious Heartland Institute to present their newest fake science report that denies climate change is a problem. The slides from the ALEC conference don't mince words: the bullet points claim "Carbon dioxide has not accelerated polar ice melt or sea level rise -- these were all false alarms," and "There is no need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and no point in attempting to do so."

Wait...what was that quote from Eric Schmidt again?

"They're just literally lying."

Ah yes, that's the one I was thinking of. 

The real danger is not just in ALEC's slide deck of misinformation. Once introduced as legislation, groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Chamber of Commerce, and other polluter-funded lobbyists pile on to pass ALEC bills.

Since the beginning of this year, ALEC has been pushing models in state legislatures to obstruct EPA limits on carbon pollution. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 16 states have adopted resolutions and seven states have enacted legislation regarding EPA's carbon pollution standards. Many of the resolutions are carbon copies of ALEC's model. The bills that passed in Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri and West Virginia are also strikingly similar to one another.

Although most of this legislation was "defanged" with amendments, the bills were originally intended to obstruct the state from using flexible, cost-effective methods to reduce pollution, in a misguided attempt to protect coal use. 

Nearly all this legislative activity occurred months before EPA's June 2nd release of its power plant proposal, so one can only imagine what's in store when state legislatures convene next year. During the Dallas conference, the ALEC Environment Task Force discussed new model language to continue their obstruction of EPA's carbon pollution limits. If I were a betting woman, I'd say several workshops will be dedicated to this issue at ALEC's policy summit in December as well. 

Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Yahoo are smart to drop ALEC now, as the secretive group's climate denial activity will probably mushroom out of control in January. Let's hope even more companies with a conscience join the exodus.

About the Authors

Aliya Haq

Deputy Director, Clean Power Plan Initiative

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