Dominion Over Nature: Greenwashing Virginia Utility Is Member of Pro-Pollution Group ALEC

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Virginia energy company Dominion Resources claims it works to “protect and enhance” the environment. But even setting aside its heavy reliance on coal generation, Dominion continues to be a member of the pro-pollution corporate bill mill and slush fund known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Dozens of major companies, including several utilities, have abandoned ALEC because of its efforts to enact “Stand Your Ground” laws as well as its efforts to roll back renewable electricity standards (and oppose EPA carbon pollution standards) in many states. The secretive and, until recently, fairly obscure nonprofit has been increasingly exposed as a place corporations can fund legislation that harms the public interest without directly getting their hands dirty.

But, as Sourcewatch explains, Dominion has not only been a corporate funder of ALEC, but “a member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force.” Unsurprisingly, the Koch Brothers are major backers of ALEC, too.

Seth Heald, vice chair of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter (and a shareholder), wanted to know why Dominion is sticking by ALEC. He wrote in response earlier this year:

At Dominion’s May 7 shareholder meeting I asked the company’s chairman and CEO, Thomas Farrell, II, why Dominion participates in ALEC and what the company gets from that participation. Farrell clearly didn’t want to say much. His entire answer was “We see value in it and that’s why we participate.”

ALECvaSeriously. In response, the Sierra Club and other regional environmental groups are sponsoring a rally to “Tell Dominion To Dump Alec” Thursday, Sept. 4, at noon at ALEC headquarters (details here).

I will be speaking at the rally. Schedule permitting, Mayor Bill Euilie of Alexandria, VA, will also speak. He has already expressed his views in this article, “Step up the fight against carbon pollution.”

The fact is, for a state so vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise, there is only negative value for Virginians in having Dominion back groups like ALEC, “an organization which has expressively opposed the EPA’s effort to curb carbon pollution from power plants as well as renewable energy while promoting dirty fossil fuels,” as Euilie puts it.

Finally, ALEC is headquartered in Virginia, and Dominion is the state’s biggest emitter of carbon pollution. In its brochure, ALEC features a picture of Thomas Jefferson and a quote from the great Virginian, all to suggest that somehow Jefferson would be supporting ALEC if he were alive today.

Not even close. A 2012 report found that ALEC has a “disturbing level of influence” on Virginia’s elected officials:

The report also said taxpayers spent more than $230,000 to send state lawmakers to ALEC conferences, where they then met with corporate lobbyists behind closed doors. Of the bills apparently drafted by ALEC, three became law, the report said.

Jefferson loathed such government by secrecy, famously saying, “If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.” Needless to say, that isn’t ALEC’s motto. Or the Kochs.

And we really don’t have to wonder what Jefferson would think about Dominion’s role as top Virginia polluter or ALEC’s ongoing efforts to destroy clean-air and a livable climate for future generations. As The Constitutional Law Foundation has explained, “The most succinct, systematic treatment of intergenerational principles left to us by the founders is that which was provided by Thomas Jefferson in his famous September 6, 1789 letter to James Madison.”

I summarized Jefferson’s position in my July 4 post. The key question for Jefferson was very simple: Must later generations “consider the preceding generation as having had a right to eat up the whole soil of their country, in the course of a life?” Soil was an obvious focal point for examining the issue of intergenerational equity for a Virginia planter like Jefferson.

The answer to Jefferson was another self-evident truth:

Every one will say no; that the soil is the gift of God to the living, as much as it had been to the deceased generation….

It is immoral for one generation to destroy another generation’s vital soil — or its livable climate. And arguably the single greatest threat climate change poses to the next generation (and the next fifty after them) is to the soil and to our ability to feed the ever-growing population of the world.

What Dominion is doing through its support of ALEC is immoral. It is time for them to stop.