Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

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)

February 10 2012

15:31

Nuclear Power vs. Natural Gas

One of the biggest risks the Southern Company faces in embarking on a big nuclear project is that natural gas will remain far more affordable.

February 09 2012

16:29

A Nuclear Milestone?

The Southern Company hopes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will greenlight a $14 billion construction project at an existing nuclear plant in Waynesboro, Ga.

July 19 2011

18:41

Students Get Lobby Group Material From Chris de Freitas in Climate 101 Lectures

New Zealand-based academic and climate sceptic Dr Chris de Freitas has been caught using material from US lobby groups in lectures to first year university Geography students.

Students who listened to the "Geography 101" lectures on climate from Dr de Freitas, an associate professor at The University of Auckland's School of Environment, admitted to being "quite convinced" that a scientific debate was still raging over the causes of global warming.

A report in the New Zealand Herald highlighted how Dr de Freitas had ignored key texts, ignored recent extreme weather events and argued that climate change was almost entirely down to natural variations.

In the lecture notes, published by author Gareth Renowden on his Hot Topic blog, one student wrote in the margins that "CO2 has a lot of beneficial effects… don't believe the propaganda".

Renowden pointed out:

De Freitas is presenting material prepared by US lobby groups and bloggers — stuff that’s been deliberately designed to confuse the issue, not provide educational material for use in university foundation courses.

Renowden discovered that Dr de Freitas was using material from retired meteorologist Joe D'Aleo and Christopher Monckton - both advisors to a number of climate denier think-tanks with links to fossil fuel funding.

Both are advisers to the Science and Public Policy Institute. Also an advisor to the SPPI is Dr David Legates, who was recently asked to step down as Delaware's state climatologist.

Dr de Freitas came to prominence when the journal Climate Research, for which he was an editor, published a controversial paper in 2003 by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas which argued contemporary climate change was not happening.

Some 13 of the editors cited in the paper complained they had been misrepresented. The paper prompted the resignation of three members of the editorial board, including editor-in-chief Hans von Storch, who said the research was flawed.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that Dr Soon's entire research income since 2002 had come from fossil fuel interests, including the American Petroleum Institute and Southern Company.

June 21 2011

18:10

Heritage Foundation Wastes No Time Spinning Court Ruling On Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against plaintiffs yesterday in a lawsuit (American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut) brought by six states against several utility companies and the government-owned Tennessee Valley Authority. The states (California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) were attempting to force the utility companies to cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the grounds that the emissions were a “public nuisance.” The Court unanimously declared that the judiciary should stay out of the matter because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already has the authority to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act.

President Obama previously stated that he stood with the utility companies in this suit, as well as in a similar suit being decided in a lower court. The utility companies in the suit included Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Southern Co, Excel Energy, and the aforementioned Tennessee Valley Authority.

The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation wasted no time yesterday in claiming that the Court’s ruling was a major blow to environmentalists, and managed to take a cheap shot at some of the liberal members of the court:

In a coherent and entirely rational argument that one does not always see from a liberal justice like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the opinion pointed out the fallacy of what the plaintiffs were trying to do – convince the federal courts to step into the role of environmental regulators and take the first stab at making complex scientific decisions. [emphasis added]

Heritage writer Hans von Spakovsky also pointed out that Justices Alito and Thomas disagreed with the Court’s previous ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, where the Court ruled that the EPA has the authority to regulate GHG emissions:

Justice Alito wrote a very short concurrence, joined by Justice Thomas, that consisted of just one paragraph. Alito joined in the judgment of the court, but did so “on the assumption (which I make for the sake of argument because no party contends otherwise) that the interpretation of the Clean Air Act adopted by the majority in Massachusetts v. EPA is correct.” In other words, Alito and Thomas were questioning what many have previously disputed – the erroneous conclusion of the Court that carbon dioxide is even a “pollutant” that is covered under the Clean Air Act.

The Heritage Foundation has a long history of denying climate change and attempting to downplay the effects. Earlier this year, the group wrote about how environmental activists were attempting to use the courts to pursue their agenda:

The recent spate of global warming lawsuits is an attempt to circumvent the political process and implement public policy by judicial fiat. Unable to advance their policies through Congress, global warming activists have turned to the judiciary to implement their agenda. Although this legislation-through-litigation violates the Constitution’s separation of powers principles, some federal judges are receptive to such lawsuits.

There is also a certain element of greed driving climate change litigation. The plaintiffs’ bar earned literally billions of dollars in attorneys’ fees in the court fight against tobacco companies, and the latest generation of plaintiffs’ attorneys sees the current battle over climate change as an opportunity for another legal fee bonanza—one that could easily eclipse the windfall from tobacco lawsuits. The personal injury bar is interested only in deep-pocket American energy and utility companies, even though any of the many producers of “greenhouse gasses” like carbon dioxide could be a target.

Last year, Ben Lieberman, the Senior Policy Analyst for Energy and Environment at The Heritage Foundation, wrote an op-ed claiming: “What I conclude from a policy standpoint is that global warming is clearly not a crisis and should not be addressed as one…None of the scary stuff about global warming is true, and what is true about global warming, what the science actually tells us about man’s role in changing the climate, is far from terrifying.

It should come as no surprise that some of the biggest financiers of the Heritage Foundation include oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron Texaco. In addition, Greenpeace has pointed out that the organization received more than $2 million from Koch foundations from 1997 – 2009. Greenpeace and DeSmogBlog have also noted that Heritage has been involved in a strategic cover up of climate science and that the group has been leading the misinformation campaign on climate change for years.

The Court’s ruling might seem like a setback, but there is clearly a silver lining. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who wrote the opinion in the ruling, said that the plaintiffs were simply making their case in the wrong forum.

Furthermore, this ruling reaffirms the Court’s previous ruling that EPA has the authority to regulate this air pollution under the Clean Air Act. While some politicians are working to repeal the EPA’s authority, the U.S. Supreme Court just gave the agency a much-needed boost.

April 30 2011

20:12

Business Groups Lobby EPA to Drop Gas Emission Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has only been regulating greenhouse gas emissions for four months, but business groups are already tired of the increased oversight. According to new reports, some of the largest business groups in America are fighting back, urging the President and Congress to strip the EPA of its new authority.

The powerful business group known as the Business Roundtable is trying to convince the White House that the EPA does not need to be involved with the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, at least not right now. The Roundtable insists that imposing new standards for emissions will hurt their industries and impose what they consider unfair costs on member corporations. In addition, the Roundtable claims that these new standards would plunge our economy back into another recession and cause massive job losses, as corporations attempt to recoup their expenses of “going green” by firing employees.

The Business Roundtable’s sentiments on the new EPA standards have been echoed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as Congressional members from both major political parties.

The Business Roundtable is made up of business leaders from all types of corporations doing business in America. Members include Exxon, General Electric, Southern Company, and various other energy, manufacturing, defense, banking, and pharmaceutical companies. According to investigative journalist David DeGraw, the Business Roundtable is the most powerful business lobby in America, and has their hand in almost every piece of legislation that effects a member of the Roundtable:

The Business Roundtable is the most powerful activist organization in the United States. Their leaders regularly lobby members of Congress behind closed doors and often meet privately with the President and his administration. Any legislation that affects Roundtable members has almost zero possibility of passing without their support.

For three major examples, look at healthcare and financial reform, along with the military budget. The healthcare reform bill devolved into what amounts to an insurance industry bailout and was drastically altered by Roundtable lobbyists representing interests like WellPoint, Aetna, Cigna, Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson…Almost every aspect of financial reform has been D.O.A. thanks to Roundtable lobbyists representing the interests of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America, HSBC, Master Card and American Express…The drastic rise in military spending is also a result of Roundtable lobbyists pushing the interests of large military companies like Boeing and Bechtel, along with the largest oil companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, Hess and Chevron.

So what do these companies do in order to ensure that they receive special favors from their friends in Washington? Again from DeGraw:

On financial reform alone, those representing Wall Street firms gave “$42 million to lawmakers, mostly to members of the House and Senate banking committees and House and Senate leaders.” During the 2008 election cycle, they gave $155 million: $88 million to Democrats and $67 million to Republicans. Keep in mind, this is the spending on just their financial reform initiative. When it came to health reform, they gave even more.

To be sure, these business interests are not used to being told “no.” So why is the Roundtable so upset about the EPA’s new standards? After all, they not only acknowledge the fact that global climate change is real and poses a significant threat, but they also give the appearance that they are working to help solve the problem. Their objection stems from the fact that it will cost them money to meet the new EPA guidelines, and this group doesn’t like spending money, unless it is to purchase a politician.

The EPA says that meeting the new guidelines will cost the industries represented by the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce a combined $90 billion over the next ten years, a hefty price tag no matter how you slice it.

But what about the flip side? What happens if these industries continue with business as usual?

While that $90 billion ten-year price tag seems lofty, it pales in comparison to the $1.9 trillion that experts predict it will cost us if we do nothing to control emissions by the year 2100. In the interim, the U.S. will end up spending $3.8 trillion over the next several decades just to combat the damage that has already been done. Having at least a moderate understanding of mathematics, it is clear that $90 billion is significantly less than $3.8 trillion.

But for American businesses, it is all about what’s happening today – the future be damned. And Congress doesn’t appear to be helping. Last year, a climate bill that would have reduced emissions failed to pass the Democrat-controlled Congress, and the new Republican-controlled Congress recently defeated another attempt to reduce emissions.

President Obama has made it clear that he will veto any bill that comes across his desk attempting to curtail the EPA’s new authority, but seeing as how the Business Roundtable is actually considered one of his closest allies, and given his penchant for compromise, EPA's mandate to protect the public from global warming pollution might well get scuttled this year.

Let's hope President Obama remembers the message he got first hand from youth climate activists he met with at the White House during PowerShift 2011 earlier this month. Otherwise, we're in for an expensive future.

January 31 2011

19:44

Disputed Reactor Design Moves Forward

An advisory panel recommends that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission license Westinghouse's AP1000 design, whose containment system has drawn some criticism from engineers. Construction of two reactors is planned near Augusta, Ga.

September 23 2010

22:23

Aid Sought for Nuclear Plants

The federal loan guarantee program may not be enough to induce Constellation Energy to build a third reactor at its Calvert Cliffs site, the company's president warns.

June 28 2010

17:55

Is a New Reactor Rust-Prone?

Approval of the design for the Westinghouse AP 1000 reactor is slowly moving forward at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as are the financial arrangements for building the nation's first one, near Augusta, Ga. Yet the argument about whether its design is really safer than past models is advancing, too.

April 21 2010

19:27

Critics Challenge Safety of New Reactor Design

A new, safer nuclear reactor design from Westinghouse has a dangerous flaw, according to environmental groups that are fighting two Georgia reactors that propose to use the technology.

January 12 2010

21:49

Tucker Carlson’s 'Daily Caller' Website Bankrolled by Climate Change Denier

The primary funder of Tucker Carlson’s new website ‘The Daily Caller’ is climate change denier and GOP bankroller Foster Friess, and Carlson has reportedly lined up sponsorship from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Mining Association and Southern Company, all major opponents of meaningful action to curb climate change.

Friess donated $3 million to Carlson’s site, which is run out of an office a “stone's throw from the White House” by a 21-person staff.  ‘The Daily Caller’ is the brainchild (if you can call it that) of Carlson and his college roommate Neil Patel, a former Dick Cheney aide.  The site’s opinion editor is former RNC press secretary Moira Bagley, immediately calling into question Carlson’s insistence that ‘The Daily Caller’ won’t cater to the right-wing crowd.
<!--break-->
Howard Kurtz reports in today’s Washington Post that “Carlson insists this won't be a right-wing site” and quotes Carlson saying "We're not enforcing any kind of ideological orthodoxy on anyone."

But Kurtz notes that:
When he announced the Daily Caller last spring, Carlson was more explicit about its ideology, telling Human Events the site would be "opposed to what's going on" under President Obama -- "a radical increase in federal power . . . a version of socialism."

Kurtz describes Friess as “an investment magnate and a Christian philanthropist” who has donated $689,000 to Republican organizations and the Bush presidential campaigns over the last decade.  Friess has “gone hunting with Cheney” (oh boy) and “is a man of many opinions.”

One of those “opinions” is that much of the information on global warming is "distorted and manipulated," according to Friess.

Josh Nelson over at EnviroKnow has compiled a quick rundown of Friess’s opinions on climate change and a list of recent items from Friess’s blog, such as this gem: “Global Warming a religion?”

Given their sources of funding, won’t it be interesting to hear what Carlson and company have to say when it comes to the subject of climate change?

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl