Right now, the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council is gathering in Washington, DC, for its annual policy summit. ALEC has not been humbled by Google and other tech companies cutting ties over ALEC’s climate denial. On the contrary, with roughly two-thirds of state legislatures now under Republican control, ALEC is redoubling its attacks against the environment, and especially against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In preparation for state legislatures convening in January, this week ALEC corporate and legislative members are finalizing new model legislation to block EPA limits on carbon pollution and smog.
Meanwhile, 111 national, state and grassroots organizations sent a joint letter to all state legislators, calling on them not to affiliate with the American Legislative Exchange Council and to encourage their colleagues to cut ties as well.
ALEC cloaks itself in free-market rhetoric, but actually serves as a vehicle for corporations to quietly craft “model” anti-environmental legislation for industry-friendly state legislators to introduce. Based on ALEC’s Energy Task Force agenda this week, ALEC should change its motto to "Limited Government, Unlimited Pollution.” You can take a look at NRDC’s analysis here, which shows the ALEC agenda is really a wish-list for energy companies.
The most extreme proposal on ALEC's agenda this week is a proposal to abolish the EPA, turn all its public health and environmental protection functions over to state officials, and slash the environmental protection budget by 75%. This ludicrous ALEC proposal has may have little chance of success, but it underscores ALEC’s radical escalation against the environment.
ALEC’s proposals going after EPA’s new pollution standards have more chance of moving forward in some conservative-led legislatures. They are intended to cripple EPA, but they may well have unintended consequences. Here’s why.
In June, EPA proposed the Clean Power Plan to limit carbon pollution from power plants, the largest source of US carbon emissions. ALEC began its attacks on the Clean Power Plan last year, months before EPA even issued its proposal. ALEC’s ultimate goal is to block any action on climate change, ignoring the millions of consumers who would save on their electric bills and the hundreds of thousands of new clean energy jobs that would emerge from the Clean Power Plan.
This week, ALEC will finalize two model bills to block states from cooperating with EPA to reduce pollution. The first ALEC bill aims to effectively repeal a state’s authority to work with EPA in implementing the Clean Air Act. It requires the state agency to obtain unnecessary legislative approval on its carbon pollution plan. States have been successfully implementing Clean Air Act standards in partnership with EPA for decades, and this bill would stymie that process. The bill politicizes pollution reductions by allowing legislators to distort a state plan, instead of relying on state agency experts to write a plan based on technical and economic analysis.
The second model bill attacking EPA’s Clean Power Plan forces states to drag their feet, prohibiting state agencies from submitting a carbon-reduction plan to EPA until all legal challenges are resolved. This is a formula for indefinite delay, since any frivolous lawsuit could hold up the plan. This is completely unnecessary, because the courts already have the authority to act when a legal challenge to a rule warrants postponing its implementation.
These bills will backfire if ALEC succeeds in pushing them through state legislatures. Ultimately, if a state does not submit a carbon pollution plan, EPA is legally obligated to issue a federal plan for the state. ALEC is spinning these bills as empowering states, when in reality these bills actually take away a state’s control. If I were an electric utility executive, I’d want the state to design an implementation plan with my input and submit that plan on time to EPA. I would certainly want to avoid a federal plan that may end up being less efficient and more costly.
As ALEC begins pushing its polluter agenda of 2015, local and national environmental groups will be working with sensible legislators to fight back against ALEC's shadowy influence. More than 300 state legislators this showed their support with public comments on EPA's Clean Power Plan. At least 111 state, national and local groups are watching ALEC's every move to counter these bills when they appear next year.