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July 28 2012

13:00

The Real Train Wreck: ALEC and "Other ALECs" Attack EPA Regulations

When business-friendly bills and resolutions spread like wildfire in statehouses nationwide calling for something as far-fetched as a halt to EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, ALEC is always a safe bet for a good place to look for their origin.

In the midst of hosting its 39th Annual Meeting this week in Salt Lake City, Utah, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative "corporate bill mill" by the Center for Media and Democracy, the overseer of the ALEC Exposed project. 98 percent of ALEC's funding comes from corporations, according to CMD**.

ALEC's meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze and then vote on what it calls "model bills." Lobbyists, as CMD explains, have a "voice and a vote in shaping policy." In short, they have de facto veto power over whether the prospective bills they present at these conferences become "models" that will be distributed to the offices of politicians in statehouses nationwide.

For a concise version of how ALEC operates, see the brand new video below by Mark Fiore.

 
ALEC Rock

ALEC, though, isn't the only group singing this tune.

As it turns out, one of the "Other ALECs," or a group that operates in a similar manner to ALEC, will be hosting its conference in the immediate aftermath of ALEC's conference: the Council of State Government's (CSG) regional offshoot, the Southern Leadership Conference (SLC).

Like ALEC, CSG produces its own "model bills," which it calls "Suggested State Legislation" (SSL). SSL is enacted via an "up or down" vote manner at CSG's national meetings. This process mirrors that of its cousin ALEC, with corporate lobbyists also able to vote in closed door meetings.

Some key differences between CSG and ALEC: the former is bipartisan in nature, while the latter is Republican Party-centric; CSG has a far larger budget, due to the fact that 43 percent of its funding comes from taxpayer contributions; and CSG is not explicitly ideological in nature because it was founded as a trade association for state legislators (not as a corporate front group like ALEC, although CSG is now heavily influenced by the same forces).

SLC's annual meeting will be held in Charleston, West Virginia from July 28-31.

TruthOut's ongoing "Other ALECs Exposed" series (written by yours truly) digs deep into the machinations of "Other ALEC"-like groups.

One of the key threads tying these two particular groups together is their agreement on derailing what they describe as "job-killing" EPA greenhouse gas emissions regulations. ALEC has referred to these sensible standards on multiple occassions as a "Regulatory Trainwreck."

ALEC, SLC and EPA "Regulatory Trainwreck" Resolutions

ALEC's "Regulatory Trainwreck" Resolution

ALEC has two model bills on the books that call for EPA regulations to be eliminated: the State Regulatory Responsibility Act and the Resolution Opposing EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck. Essentially clones, the two bills passed nearly a decade apart from one another, the former in 2000, the latter in 2011.

ALEC's description of EPA regulations reads like the apocolypse is looming.

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun a war on the American standard of living," it wrote. "During the past couple of years, the Agency has undertaken the most expansive regulatory assault in history on the production and distribution of affordable and reliable energy…These regulations are causing the shutdown of power plants across the nation, forcing electricity generation off of coal, destroying jobs, raising energy costs, and decreasing reliability."  

Former CMD reporter Jill Richardson wrote in a July 2011 story that the concept behind the resolution originated at ALEC's December 2010 policy summit. Richardson explained,

The policy summit included a session led by Peter Glaser of Troutman Sanders LLP law firm in which Glaser, an attorney who represents electric utility, mining and other energy industry companies and associations on environmental regulation, specifically in the area of air quality and global climate change, told the crowd that "EPA's regulatory trainwreck" is "a term that's now in common use around town. I think everybody should become familiar with it." (See the video here.) Along with the presentations, ALEC published a report called "EPA's Regulatory Trainwreck: Strategies for State Legislators" and provided "Legislation to Consider" on its site, RegulatoryTrainwreck.com. For the public, they created the website StopTheTrainwreck.com.

The Resolution calls for the EPA to stop regulating greenhouse gases for the next two years as a "jobs creation" mechanism.

After the midterm election ransacking, in which the GOP won large majorities in state legislatures nationwide, it was off to the races for "Regulatory Train Wreck" resolutions to pass around the country, and pass they did. 

The "Regulatory Trainwreck" resolution, according to ALEC, has been introduced in an astounding 34 states, passing in 13, as of a June 2011 press release.

This assault conducted by ALEC and its corporate backers is merely the tip of the iceberg. ALEC itself boasts,

There are 27 groups of state and local officials that opposerecent EPA action, including tens of thousands of state legislators, utility commissioners, agricultural department officials, foresters, drinking water administrators, fish and wildlife agencies, solid waste management officials, state wetland managers, mayors, counties, and cities.

One of these 27 groups included CSG's Southern Leadership Conference.

SLC Adopts the "Regulatory Train Wreck" Resolution as its Own

On July 19, 2011, the SLC adopted the ALEC Regulatory Train Wreck resolution at its 65th Annual Meeting in Memphis, TN. The Resolution called for, among other things, to

  1. "Adopt legislation prohibiting the EPA from further regulating greenhouse gas emissions for the next 24 months, including, if necessary, defunding the EPA greenhouse gas regulatory activity;"
  2. "Impose a moratorium on the promulgation of any new air quality regulation by the EPA, including, if necessary,the defunding of the EPA air quality regulatory activities, except to address an imminent health or environmental emergency, for a period of at least 24 months;"  

In other words, this is a copycat of the ALEC Resolution. SLC, like ALEC, chocks it up to the false dichotomy of regulation vs. jobs, and regulations "killing jobs." As DeSmogBlog has written, the opposite is actually the case.

The resolution's opening paragraph is a case in point. It reads,

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed, or is in the process of proposing, numerous regulations regarding air quality and regulation of greenhouse gases that likely will have major effects on Southern state economies, impacting businesses, manufacturing industries and, in turn, job creation and U.S. competitiveness in world markets."

Lobbyists representing the Nuclear Energy Institute, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), Southern States Energy Board (a lobbying tour de force, which has a whole host of dirty energy clients in the oil, gas, and nuclear power sectors), Piedmont Natural Gas, Spectra Energy, and Southern Company were all in attendance to vote on this resolution. 

Dirty energy sponsors of the 2011 SLC meeting included the likes of Spectra, General Electric, ACCCE, Chevron, Honeywell, Piedmont Natural Gas, BP, Southern Company, and Atmos Energy, to name several.

If adopted at a federal level, this resolution would, of course, make all of these companies a hefty fortune.  

ALEC's Bifurcated Approach: Strip Federal Regs, Attack Local Democracy

Oil, gas, nuclear and utility corporations that fund ALEC and groups like CSG would like nothing more than to see EPA regulations disintegrate into thin air.

Part one of DeSmog's investigation on ALEC's dirty energy agenda showed that, along with pushing for the elimination of EPA regulations, it has also succeeded in promulgating legislation that would eliminate local democracy as we know it, including altering key standards such as zoning rights - a Big Business giveaway of epic proportions.

This would mean only extremely underfunded and understaffed state regulatory agencies like the New York Department of Environmental Conservation would have any oversight on environmental regulatory issues. 

If anything is clear, it's this: statehouses have become one of Big Business' favorite domiciles for pushing its "Corporate Playbook." 

Image CreditLane V. Erickson ShutterStock

(**Full Disclosure: Steve Horn is a former employee of CMD and worked on the ALECExposed project)

November 20 2011

23:37

ACCCE Doesn't Want To Pony Up For Life-Saving, Job-Creating New Emissions Standards

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) is apparently trying to show the EPA its empty pockets as a new set of standards capping mercury, arsenic, acid gases, and other toxic chemicals is about to go forward. Although the new laws will save thousands of lives, the coal companies are complaining that this new ruling “is the most expensive rule the EPA has ever written for coal-fueled power plants."

However, when taking a closer look at the collective bank accounts of the 22 members of ACCCE (including some of the largest coal companies like Arch Coal and Peabody), their balance of cash is near $18 billion.

Yet, all coal companies under the new emissions reductions (including ones not associated with ACCCE) would pay a combined total of $11 billion for the new technology. Perhaps if the companies stopped spending $35 million on delusional TV ads, they could instead put it to better use for advancements that would alleviate the suffering of many and create jobs.

Estimates say that 1.5 million jobs could be created out of these improvements, but hey, $11 billion also makes a pretty awesome money pile to jump into and roll around in.

Read the original article on Grist.org.

 

July 08 2011

20:03

Reducing Air Pollution is Well Worth the Cost

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to protect states from sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution emitted from coal plants in other states. After dragging its feet for a while, the Bush administration introduced the Clean Air Interstate Rule in 2005. Due to its over-reliance on emissions trading, the Clean Air Interstate Rule was shot down (PDF) in December 2008 by the U.S. Court of appeals for the District of Columbia. One year ago today, the Obama administration proposed a plan -- the Clean Air Transport Rule -- to replace the Bush administration's flawed Clean Air Interstate Rule.

Finally, today, the EPA finalized an updated version of this rule, now appropriately named the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (large PDF), which requires power plants in 27 eastern states and the District of Columbia to significantly reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution.

The public health benefits of this rule, which goes into effect at the beginning of 2012, promise to be enormous (PDF, p. 12):



The air quality improvements will also be tremendous, with the number of counties in violation of federal standards expected to drop from 207 to just two as soon as 2014. Here are the counties that violated air quality standards between 2003 and 2007 (PDF, p. 30):


And here are the two counties that are projected to be in violation by 2014 (PDF, p. 31), as well as the six that are projected to have maintenance problems:

Justifiably, the rule was praised today by countless respected people and organizations. Here's a joint statement released this afternoon by Environment America, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Defense Fund and the Sierra Club:

Stronger limits for power plant pollution will mean healthier, longer lives for millions of Americans. Smokestack emissions from power plants threaten public health by delivering harmful pollutants like sulfur dioxide, greenhouse gases and toxic mercury into the air we breathe and the water we drink, posing a particular threat to children and vulnerable populations like seniors. This much-needed update to clean air standards will significantly reduce the threat from this pollution and save lives.

Here's Delaware Senator Tom Carper:

The EPA has developed a sensible approach that will reduce smog and particle pollution and in turn, give us cleaner air and prevent thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in healthcare costs. In the end, this rule will help us achieve better health care results for less money.

And here's Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association:

Today’s ruling is an important and long overdue step to protect the health of Americans and clean up our environment. It’s a huge win-win. We praise EPA for its continued efforts to help create stronger, healthier and more productive communities for ourselves and our families.

Care to guess who criticized the rule? That's right -- Republican politicians and the coal industry. Here's Texas Governor, potential GOP presidential candidate and former Al Gore supporter Rick Perry, who told Glenn Beck last week that he didn't think the federal government should enforce clean air laws at all:

Today's EPA announcement is another example of heavy-handed and misguided action from Washington, D.C., that threatens Texas jobs and families and puts at risk the reliable and affordable electricity our state needs to succeed.

Here's the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which was caught sending fraudulent letters to members of Congress in August 20009:

America’s coal-fueled electric industry has been doing its part for the environment and the economy, but our industry needs adequate time to install clean coal technologies to comply with new regulations. Unfortunately, EPA doesn’t seem to care.

And here's Pat Hemlepp, spokesman for American Electric Power:

Taking power plants out of service like this pulls tax dollars out of the communities, pulls jobs out of communities, in addition to increasing electricity costs

One side says this new rule will save tens of thousands of lives and improve air quality for 240 million Americans. They're absolutely right. The other side says the rule is costly and unnecessary and will kill countless jobs. While this is mostly coal-industry spin, there is a kernel of truth to it. Implementing pollution controls on out-of-date coal-fired power plants is somewhat expensive, and if some plants choose to close down rather than modernizing, jobs will be lost. But as Harvard economist Robert Stavins explains, this is a more than worthwhile tradeoff. "It doesn't mean that there are no costs, but the benefits of the transport rule in terms of human health protection tremendously outweigh the costs of this," he told NPR.

Ultimately, that is what this rule comes down to. There are unintended consequences to nearly every action the government takes, but as a society, we've decided that saving thousands of lives and making it easier to breathe for hundreds of millions of Americans is a higher priority than protecting the profits of an unscrupulous industry. I think that's a pretty wise decision, and I'm proud of the EPA for having the courage to go through with it while facing a seemingly endless onslaught of hysterical attacks.

November 20 2009

22:18

The Angry Mermaid Greets Corporate Blockers of Climate Action With an Award


The Angry Mermaid Award - Image by PolypStanding watch over its harbor is the iconic symbol of Copenhagen – the Little Mermaid. Soon she will greet the international community coming to Copenhagen as her town hosts the COP15 climate summit early next month. She takes her role as host to the world seriously, but there are some that are coming to her home that make her angry. It is the thousands of lobbyist and Big Business representatives planning to come to the climate conference that have no interest in dealing with the problem and instead seek ways to hobble progress in order to pursue short-term profit over long-term sustainability.

Because of those people, the Little Mermaid has become the Angry Mermaid. And to help expose those groups, businesses, and lobbyists who work tirelessly to block progress, she has established an award, the Angry Mermaid Award, asking anyone interested to vote for the company or organization that has done the most to sabotage effective action on climate change.

—————-

The Angry Mermaid Award was created through cooperation from five organizations, including Attack Denmark, Corporate Europe Observatory, Focus on the Global South, Friends of the Earth International, and Spinwatch.

The group considered the most egregious offenders and came up with a short list of eight companies and lobby groups eligible to receive the Angry Mermaid award:

And the winner is…

That is up to you! Help decide which of these lobby groups and companies have done the most to sabotage climate action by taking a few moments to vote. Voting is open until December 13 and the winner will be announced in the Little Mermaid's home, Copenhagen, on December 15. Which one did I vote for? Here's a hint.

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