Big polluters have begun their state-by-state assault to obstruct the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to limit carbon pollution. The clandestine American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and a new polluter coalition, led by the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), are ramping up their fight to allow power plants to continue releasing unlimited amounts of carbon pollution. At the ALEC policy summit last December, industry lawyers encouraged ALEC corporate and legislative members to engage in “guerrilla warfare” to hinder EPA's efforts to address climate change. Eight weeks later, ALEC-style bills to weaken EPA carbon pollution standards are popping up in state legislatures, while the Chamber/NAM polluter coalition is lining up millions of dollars for state “grassroots networks.”
Virginia, Florida, and Arizona are among the first states to see polluter-influenced bills attempting to weaken the expected limits on carbon pollution. ALEC's model resolution approved on January 9th, the Virginia bill (SB 615) introduced on January 15th, and the Florida bill (HB 703) filed on January 21 all contain strikingly similar language, calling for states to pursue "less stringent emission standards or longer compliance schedules than those provided in applicable rules or emission guidelines." The Virginia bill underwent substantial changes in committee last Thursday, and may come up for a full vote during this session. The Arizona bill (SR 1003) introduced on January 28 is noticeably minimalist, simply citing the Tenth Amendment and calling for a nullification of all EPA rules in the state of Arizona. The bill draws from an ALEC model bill that reaffirms Tenth Amendment rights.
ALEC will not disclose the identity of corporate members that write its model bills for state lawmakers. Leaked documents show recent members of ALEC (p 52) include a number of private sector members with an interest in slowing down carbon pollution standards, including: Alliant Energy; American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE); American Electric Power; American Gas Association; American Petroleum Institute; BP; Duke Energy Corporation; Edison Electric Institute; Exxon Mobil Corporation; National Rural Electric Cooperative Association; and Peabody Energy.
Adding this recent activity in states, some corporate members of ALEC along with the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers launched a new polluter group last Thursday. The new group is following the old playbook to block or slow down any action that would limit carbon pollution and climate change, which likely includes pushing ALEC model bills to weaken standards. A NAM spokesperson confirmed that members “collectively plan to dedicate millions of dollars” to this effort, while a Chamber spokesperson described the effort as activating “grassroots networks.” While details of the group’s future activities are sparse, many of the members have engaged in “fake grassroots” or “astroturf” campaigns, including the American Petroleum Institute as well as the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which sent a dozen forged letters to members of Congress opposing climate legislation.
In contrast to obstructionist efforts, many big and small businesses are urging for action on carbon pollution. Coca-Cola and Nike recognize the threats of climate change on their operations, while Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), the Small Business Majority, the American Sustainable Business Council, and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy all applaud President Obama’s efforts to address carbon pollution and transition toward a clean energy economy. Let’s hope that state and national leaders hear these voices, instead of strident polluters.