The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization known for helping to advance corporate interests by writing and then pushing to pass conservative legislation at the state level, has created a new initiative with the goal to expand its influence in cities, towns, villages, and other local municipalities throughout the country. ALEC has actively pursued an anti-clean energy and anti-climate agenda in states across the country and its vast network of donors include the notorious petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch.
The new project is called the American City County Exchange (ACCE) and “will offer corporate America a direct conduit into the policy making process of city councils and municipalities,” according to a report by Ed Pilkington in The Guardian.
Public and private membership applications are posted on ALEC’s website. ACCE is offering companies “founders committee” status in return for $25,000 a year and “council committee” membership for $10,000. This means corporate lobbyists will be able to join ACCE and work to draft model resolutions, bills, and ordinances in hopes of having the legislation enacted by the public officials affiliated with the ALEC project.
Utility companies that use fossil fuels to generate most of their electricity such as American Electric Power, coal suppliers like Peabody Energy, and four of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world — BP, Chevron, Exxon, and Shell — are known ALEC members. These companies along with more fossil fuel companies are specifically associated with the Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force of ALEC. This task force and ALEC state officials spent much of last year trying to repeal state clean energy laws and failed miserably.
But they’re still at it in 2014. Specifically, ALEC has new model bills that aim to weaken solar net metering policies, open loopholes in disclosure requirements for fracking chemicals, and establish restrictions for state agencies that will be required to limit carbon pollution from power plants under the upcoming Environmental Protection Agency standards.
Environmental and energy debates are not just occurring at the state level, which seems to be the explanation for the creation of ACCE. In recent years, for instance, many city councils, town boards, and county legislatures have banned natural gas drilling that uses hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. These bans create clashes with state legislators wanting to increase the number of fracked wells in the state and local officials addressing the concerns of residents who do not want fracking to occur in their towns.
Additionally, city and local officials have had to debate coal export terminals, restrictions for rail companies transporting oil, and the process and location of storing petroleum coke — a dirty byproduct of refining heavy tar sands oil.
The outcomes of these debates taking place at the local government level have tremendous impact on the bottom line of the fossil fuel companies associated with ALEC. With the creation of ACCE, mayors, city council members, and county board officials will soon be meeting with and attending closed-door conferences with major corporations and fossil fuel interests.