The American Legislative Exchange Council is a “stealth business lobbyist,” according to the New York Times. It has been bleeding corporate and business members over the last year due to controversial legislation it has promoted on issues ranging from voter suppression to minimum wage laws.
ALEC often acts as a kind of factory for template legislation enacting right-wing policy priorities, and the bills then show up in state legislatures — often pushed by state-level lawmakers who are themselves ALEC’s members. They’ve included bills to repeal minimum wage laws, dismantle unions, undo capital gains and estate taxes, get rid of paid sick days, increase obstacles to voting, and even push the “stand your ground” laws made infamous by the death of Trayvon martin.
Thanks to bad press over the last two efforts in particular, companies as prominent as General Electric, Amazon.com, Coca-Cola, and Walmart have abandoned the group, for a total of at least 37 departures as of August 2012 — though others such as ExxonMobile and Koch Industries remain loyal.
Now, as E&E News reports, ALEC’s oppositional stance on renewable energy policy has lost it two big names in renewable energy as well. The Solar Energy Industries Association allowed its membership to expire last fall, and the American Wind Energy Association dropped out earlier this month:
The American Wind Energy Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association joined the industry-backed coalition for a year because they wanted a “seat at the table” to discuss hot energy issues, said AWEA spokesman Peter Kelley.
But the groups decided to drop out after ALEC adopted the “Electricity Freedom Act” model bill in October, which would end requirements that utilities generate a set amount of electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and solar. SEIA allowed its one-year membership to expire last fall, and AWEA dropped out earlier this month. SEIA’s decision to drop out was also fueled by ALEC’s refusal to take up a SEIA proposal to ease permitting costs for distributed generation, said Carrie Cullen-Hitt, a senior vice president for the solar industry group. “We didn’t get very far with that,” Cullen-Hitt said.
Now, AWEA is warning state lawmakers not to be taken in by ALEC’s message, one that Kelley said is driven by fossil fuel companies. He pointed out that conservative think tank and climate skeptic Heartland Institute told The Washington Post last year that it had joined ALEC to write language to revise state renewable energy mandates in 29 states and the District of Columbia.
The state renewable energy standards the Electricity Freedom Act would undo require utilities to produce a defined portion of their energy from wind, solar, and other renewable sources. Those requirements have driven the advancement of clean energy economies and lower carbon emissions throughout the United States, resulting in cost savings, new investment, and new jobs.
ALEC pushed the EFA in the same manner as its previous pieces of legislation — setting up a model bill which was then championed by scattered lawmakers and lobbyists in state legislatures around the country. The group’s other efforts in the environmental arena have encompassed attempts to torpedo state-level adoption of carbon pricing, to encourage states to turn over public lands to private ownership for oil and gas extraction, to water down laws requiring disclosure about the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, to block regulation of toxic coal ash specifically, and to gum up the Environmental Protection Agency’s moves to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in general.
But despite all this, states are still moving forward to fight global warming: California went from a 20 percent standard by 2010 to a 33 percent standard by 2020, which it’s currently on track to meet. Colorado increased its standard twice since 2004, rising from 10 percent to 30 percent by 2020. And New York went from a 25 percent renewable energy standard by 2013, to 30 percent by 2015.
“There are 29 states that have renewable portfolio standards,” Bill Gupton, an outreach director at Consumers Against Rate Hikes, told E&E News. “And it’s my understanding that ALEC is targeting each one.”