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November 08 2011


July 22 2011


Koch Brothers And ExxonMobil Join Forces To Fight RGGI With Copy-Paste State Legislation

As we’ve reported over and over again, the popular and successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and other regional climate agreements are under attack from polluters. Today, a bombshell report by Bloomberg News makes it undeniably clear who is leading the attack, and paints an ugly picture of collusion, influence, and state legislators deep in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry. 

The report shines a light on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which serves as a drafting board for industry-friendly state legislation and then subsequently as a sort of mixer for corporations and state politicians who are willing to accept financial favors to bring these copy-and-paste laws back to their home states.

Bloomberg reporter Alison Fitzpatrick 
The opportunity for corporations to become co-authors of state laws legally through ALEC covers a wide range of issues from energy to taxes to agriculture. The price for participation is an ALEC membership fee of as much as $25,000 -- and the few extra thousands to join one of the group’s legislative-writing task forces. Once the “model legislation” is complete, it’s up to ALEC’s legislator members to shepherd it into law.
Fitzpatrick calls out Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries as two companies whose handwriting (forget fingerprints) are all over the template legislation that forces states out of their regional climate agreements.
The process seems to work, at least to some degree. Within the past year, legistators in at least eight states have introduced provisions to leave their respective emissions reduction pacts. David Anderson, who writes the New Hampshire Primary 2012: Green blog about climate change and the 2012 election, first spotted the template. After doing some heroic digging, he found that in at least six of these states, the legislation introduced was literally copied-and-pasted from the template provided by ALEC. These states are Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington (all PDFs), and New Hampshire.

Anderson first spotted the language in the “findings” section of the New Hampshire bill. As he told Living on Earth: “It says ‘whereas there has been no credible economic analysis of the increasing cost of doing business in the state of,’ and then there’s a blank, so, in this case, they inserted the words, New Hampshire.”

When the bill was discussed in committee, Anderson reported this incredible exchange:

The bill’s lead sponsor, state Rep. Richard Barry (R), looked a bit like a dog caught with the family cat in its mouth when he was asked to explain the language at a public hearing; he nervously said that none of the bill’s sponsors had written this particular section, but stopped short of revealing ALEC as the source of the text. That didn’t sit well with Rep. James Garrity (R), chair of the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee, who later explained, “Our committee does not feel that editorials belong in laws.” The matter was resolved by dropping the ALEC text, and the amended bill went on to pass the House.

The language Anderson found in the New Hampshire bill is the same that Fitzpatrick identified (PDF) as the “eight-paragraph resolution,” that reads, in part, “there has been no credible economic analysis of the costs associated with carbon reduction mandates” and “a tremendous amount of economic growth would be sacrificed for a reduction in carbon emissions that would have no appreciable impact on global concentrations of carbon dioxide.”

Fitzpatrick reports that ALEC’s “model bills, which now total almost 1,000, are listed on its website, although their full texts can be called up only by members.” But the Center for Media and Democracy actually acquired the full texts of over 800 of the bills earlier this month, and posted them at ALECexposed.org.

ALEC has received at least $124,000 from the Exxon Mobil Foundation in dues and sponsorships, but that figure doesn’t include direct grants or gifts from the corporation itself. Greenpeace reveals that the Council has also received at least $408,000 from the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation since 1997.

This isn’t, of course, the first time we’ve seen Koch money directly influencing regional climate pacts.

Last month, Governor Chris Christie pulled New Jersey out of RGGI, stripping the ten state agreement of one of its key cornerstone partners. Next door in New York, Americans for Prosperity, a group whose ties to the Koch brothers are well established, sued the state for its continued commitment to RGGI.
So far, none of the legislative or alternative efforts to pull out of regional commitments have had great traction. New Jersey’s case was unique, as Christie was able to use a controversial executive order, but there's still a lengthy regulatory process to fully extricate the state from the pact, and Democratic leaders in the state senate and assembly are introducing new legislation to strip the governor of his authority over RGGI.

widespread public support in the Garden State, Christie, who doesn’t deny that humans are causing global warming, claimed that RGGI was "a failure and an ineffective approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” This claim has been widely and summarily dismissed by scores of economists, environmentalists, and five governors who remain fully committed to RGGI. "Governor Christie is simply wrong when he claims that these efforts are a failure," said Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

Americans for Prosperity celebrated Christie’s decision, even taking direct credit for it in a public press release: Americans for Prosperity Declares Victory over RGGI Cap & Trade!

The New Jersey chapter of AFP spent roughly $200,000 in the state on advertisements and other public efforts to fight RGGI, and plenty of analysts assume that Christie’s announcement was made to appease the notorious Tea Party funders as he sets his sights on a prospective White House run in 2012.

But while the New Jersey campaign was done in broad daylight, this Bloomberg News bombshell makes clear that Koch-funded organizations are still spearheading shadowy attempts to help states cut and run from their regional climate commitments.

With the prospects for nationwide carbon pricing at a ten-year low, regional agreements like RGGI, the Western Climate Initiative, and the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Accord seem to hold the best hope for creating a carbon market and generating revenue to fund clean energy and energy efficiency projects. For this reason, no doubt, polluting interests like Koch Industries are sharpening their swords, and their legislation drafting pencils.
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July 01 2011


Americans For Prosperity Sues New York For Participating In Regional Climate Pact

The Koch brothers’ corporate front group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) filed a lawsuit on Monday in New York’s State Supreme Court seeking to reverse a core piece of state action on climate change.  

New York joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2005 when former governor George Pataki (R) approved the state’s participation in the program. The suit alleges that New York is illegally (coercively) taxing residents by taking part in the market-based 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The AFP complaint also asserts that carbon emissions trading is unconstitutional because it infringes on federal authority to set rules on air pollution and electrical power transmission across states. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), along with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, are all named as defendants in the suit.

The RGGI is the first state-based cap-and-trade program requiring electric utilities to purchase state emissions permits (credits) which are used to fund clean energy initiatives, create green jobs, lower energy bills, improve energy efficiency and home weatherization programs. Over the last three years New York alone has raised $320 million from its participation in RGGI, adding an average of less than 50 cents a month to a resident’s power bills. In all, the 10 participating states have raised $770 million [pdf], while adding a mere 0.4% to 1% on average to electricity bills. The RGGI also amplifies initial investments since ratepayers end up saving $3 to $4 for every dollar invested.

Peter Iwanowicz, a former DEC commissioner and head of the state Office of Climate Change, as well as an affiliate of the American Lung Association, is challenging the dirty energy interests attacking RGGI: "It is clear that those who are behind the suit are standing up for polluters and their profits, and they care very little about the people in New York."

Contrary to the Kochtopus lobbying campaigns to deny climate change and efforts to overturn the RGGI, a Koch subsidiary, Koch Supply and Trading of Wichita, participated in the very first RGGI trade of carbon allowances [pdf]. In fact, according to the Albany Times Union, Koch Industries traders took part in at least three of RGGI’s first nine emissions credit auctions.

And What About New York’s Neighbour New Jersey?

In May New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R) vowed to abandon the RGGI by the end of 2011. Formerly a supporter of strong action on climate change, Christie now looks more like the many fellow Tea Party Republican climate deniers who were elected in droves last November.

Challenging the governor, this week, the New Jersey Assembly followed the state Senate in passing several bills aiming to prevent the state from leaving the RGGI. 

John McKeon, chairman of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee, told SolveClimate News that the legislation "absolutely clears up any ambiguity of [Christie] being able to pull us out unilaterally." 

Unfortunately, the slim margins the bills passed by will do little to dissuade the governor from using his veto.

McKeon adds that pulling out of the RGGI disregards “…the intent of the Legislature which required New Jersey to be a member of RGGI,” and that “Governor Christie is ignoring the will of the people…” 

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) conducted a poll revealing that 74% of New Jersey voters support keeping New Jersey energy dollars in the state rather than spending this money on fossil fuels; 60% say they would be willing to pay an additional 75 cents on their monthly energy bills to curb power plant pollution and invest in cleaner, local energy sources like wind and solar; and 47% also said that leaving the RGGI would be inconsistent with the governor’s earlier commitment to clean energy as a way to rebuild the state’s economy and workforce, with only 33% thinking it would be consistent.

In all, New Jersey has raised more than $105 million from auctioning carbon credits since 2008.


May 30 2011


New Jersey Governor Christie Bails On Carbon Pollution Reduction Initiative

New Jersey governor Chris Christie has decided that he is no longer willing to cooperate with other states in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Christie announced this week that his state will be pulling out of a program with ten other Northeastern states that aimed to reduce carbon pollution and institute a cap-and-trade program among the states.

In an announcement on his decision, Christie declared the program – which has been in place for almost 8 years – to be a complete failure that has done nothing to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that the program is hurting job creation in his state.
The Associated Press wrote the following on the program and Christie’s decision:

The Northeastern pact sets limits on carbon dioxide emissions by fossil fuel-burning power plants and requires them to buy permits to release such gases. The permits can be bought and sold among plants, giving them a financial incentive to operate more cleanly.

The cap-and-trade pact "does nothing more than tax electricity, tax our citizens, tax our businesses with no discernible or measurable impact upon our environment," Christie said. Residential customers in states that participate in the pact paid an average of about 73 cents extra on their monthly electric bill to fund the program.

The nine remaining states in the program have made it clear that they will be continuing the program, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, even without New Jersey on board.

In spite of Christie’s accusations that the program is a “failure,” New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel says that the program has reduced electric utility emissions by 10% over the last two years, and has created as many as 18,000 jobs in the Northeast, bringing in an estimated $2.3 billion in direct economic benefits from the Initiative.

Christie campaigned for office as a candidate that would put the environment first, and said he would continue to push for renewable energy production in New Jersey. These promises earned him the endorsement of the New Jersey Environmental Federation, making him the first Republican in three decades that the group endorsed. Christie repeatedly hammered incumbent Jon Corzine as being harmful to the environment in New Jersey, saying that Corzine failed to clean up toxic waste sites in the state and that he allowed special interests to have too much influence in the Corzine administration.

But despite his strong rhetoric, Christie has been anything but a friend to the environment. He even campaigned (after the environmental endorsement) on a pledge to cut staff and funding for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, saying that the agency was too big and took too long to grant permits to big business.

His record before taking office isn’t any better. He once worked as a lobbyist on behalf of the energy industry in New Jersey, working with state officials to allow more energy exploration in the state.

Christie’s withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is just the latest in a long line of environmental attacks from the Republican governor. His campaign promises continue to ring hollow as he unleashes his assault on the New Jersey environment.

May 26 2011

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