Connor Gibson

ALEC/Koch Cabal Attack on Clean Energy Begins in NC

Duke Energy & Koch Brothers kill clean energy in North Carolina

by Connor Gibson

As anticipated, former Duke Energy engineer and North Carolina Representative Mike Hager has introduced a version of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s “Electricity Freedom Act” into the state’s General Assembly.

House Bill 298 would fully repeal North Carolina’s renewable portfolio NC-Rep-Mike-Hager-214x300standard (RPS)–a state law requiring utilities to generate more electricity from clean sources over time. The existing RPS law is credited for contributing to the rapid growth of the clean energy sector in North Carolina.

By introducing a bill to fully repeal North Carolina’s RPS law, Rep. Hager is backtracking on his own promise not to eliminate current renewable energy targets for NC’s dominant utility, Duke Energy. From the Charlotte Business Journal last December:

Hager says he does not support eliminating the renewable requirements. N.C. utilities already have committed to long-term contracts to meet the current level of renewable-energy requirements. So changing the rules could cause problems for the utilities, he notes. That is why he generally favors capping renewables at the current level.

But Rep. Hager abandoned this position, instead marching in lockstep with the American Legislative Exchange Council’s full repeal initiative.

At least seven of the bill’s sponsors are known affiliates of ALEC, including three of the four primary sponsors–Rep’s Mike Hager, Marilyn Avila, George Cleveland, Rayne Brown, Justin Burr, Sarah Stevens, and Mike Stone.

ALEC has many other members in the NC legislature, including House Speaker Thom Tillis, who just joined ALEC’s national Board of Directors.

ALEC’s Electricity Freedom Act, the model bill reflected in Rep. MALEC-Heartlandike Hager’s H298, was born from its Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force and was written by the Heartland Institute, a member of the task force. Other members of ALEC anti-environmental task force include Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy and Duke Energy.

Despite heavy public pressure to disassociate from ALEC’s attacks on clean energy, climate policy and other controversial subjects like voter suppression, Duke Energy remains a paying member of ALEC. Duke helped finance ALEC’s conference in Charlotte last spring, where the Electricity Freedom Act was first drafted:

Duke pays heavily for ALEC’s operations–they have spent $116,000 on ALEC meetings since 2009, including $50,000 for ALEC’s May 2012 meeting in Charlotte, NC where Duke is headquartered (Charlotte Business Journal). This well exceeds the top annual ALEC membership fee of $25,000.

As I wrote in January, Duke Energy (recently merged with Progress Energy) is now backtracking on their support for North Carolina’s clean energy standard:

This is where ALEC makes things awkward for Duke Energy: the law that Rep. Mike Hager is targeting (2007 SB3) was created with input from Duke Energy, and Duke explicitly opposes ALEC’s “Electricity Freedom Act,” the model law to repeal state Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (REPS). Duke Energy re-asserted its support for North Carolina’s REPS law to the Charlotte Business Journal last April and Progress Energy publicly supported the law before merging with Duke.

Less than a year ago Duke Energy was explicitly opposed to an ALEC RPS repeal in North Carolina. Now Duke’s NC president says they are “open to conversations” on changes to the RPS.

Duke Energy helped pass the RPS laws in North Carolina and Ohio, another state where ALEC legislators are introducing versions of the Electricity Freedom Act.

Through ALEC, Duke Can Kill Clean Energy Requirements and Get its Money back from Ratepayers:

Surviving text to the RPS law gutted by Rep. Hager’s H298 includes provisions allowing Duke Energy to charge its ratepayers to recover compliance costs from the clean energy requirements. For that text: see § 62-133.8. (H) (4) “Cost Recovery and Customer Charges”

This provision reflects a late change ALEC made to it’s model RPS repeal bill, perhaps at the request of ALEC member utilities like Duke Energy. Text added to the Electricity Freedom Act allows utilities to recover compliance costs from RPS laws after they are repealed. Compare last year’s draft version of the Electricity Freedom Act with the final version from October 2012–you’ll notice the key additions, particularly this clause:

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Act also recognizes the prudency and reasonableness of many of the renewable contracts and investments and allows for recovery of costs where appropriate;

Not the first time ALEC legislators have attacked NC clean energy:

Sue Sturgis at the Institute for Southern Studies notes that Rep. Hager’s bill isn’t the first legislative attempt to kill North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard. One of the co-sponsors of Hager’s bill already tried to repeal the RPS law in 2011:

Last year, Rep. George Cleveland (R-Onslow) — among the state lawmakers with ALEC ties – sponsored a bill to overturn North Carolina’s renewable energy law. It gained no co-sponsors and went nowhere, but the outcome could be different now that ALEC is getting more actively involved in the issue.

Legislators who have taken aim at clean energy incentives have been egged on by corporate interest groups, often with money trails leading back to the Koch brothers, Art Pope, and other wealthy elites. Sue Sturgis detailed how ALEC and other State Policy Network groups were gearing up to repeal the RPS before Mike Hager introduced his bill yesterday:

Last year, representatives of the groups gave presentations around the state that were critical of the state’s renewable energy standard. Among the presenters was Daren Bakst, director of legal and regulatory studies for the John Locke Foundation and a member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force, which crafted the model law overturning state renewable energy standards.

Joining Bakst were representatives of the American Tradition Institute (ATI), a fossil-fuel industry-funded think tank that was behind a controversial freedom of information lawsuit against the University of Virginia that sought to discredit a prominent climate scientist. ATI has also targeted state renewable energy programs.

Several years ago, the John Locke Foundation teamed up with the Beacon Hill Institute, a conservative research organization that has received support from the Koch family foundations, to release a report claiming North Carolina’s renewable energy law was having a negative economic impact.

One of the first groups we can expect to see chime in will be the Beacon Hill Institute. ALEC and other State Policy Network members have used Beacon Hill’s fundamentally flawed reports as the justification for repealing state RPS repeals in NC, KS, OH and other states. See these sources for a debunk of the Beacon Hill papers:

Beacon Hill will not be alone. We can expect continued support for the clean energy attack from Art Pope’s front groups like the John Locke Foundation and the Civitas Institute and other State Policy Network affiliates funded by Pope, the Koch brothers, and Donors Trust.

This is exactly what is happening with the Kansas clean energy standard: representatives of several State Policy Network groups including the Beacon Hill Institute, the Heartland Institute, the American Tradition Institute’s Chris Horner swarmed into Kansas to support the RPS repeal.

As the debate around Mike Hager’s bill unfolds, we’ll see who the Kochs send in to support his effort.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This article is written by Connor Gibson and is posted at http://greenpeaceblogs.org/2013/03/14/alec-bill-to-kill-nc-clean-energy-law-surfaces-koch-fronts-and-duke-energy-behind-the-curtains/
Greenpeace

Wind, solar groups quit ALEC as conservative powerhouse targets clean-energy programs

no alecTwo renewable energy industry groups have dropped out of the American Legislative Exchange Council, citing the conservative coalition’s efforts to wipe out state-level clean energy programs.

ALEC connects businesses and about 2,000 state lawmakers to push free-market legislation, and state lawmakers who are members of ALEC often introduce the model bills in their home legislatures — an increasingly controversial practice that has been widely criticized by liberal and environmental groups and some government watchdogs.

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 (E&ENews PM, Nov. 5, 2012). 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.

“We want to warn our former fellow members of ALEC about that misinformation because we won’t be around to protect them,” he said.

Environmental and clean energy groups cite watchdog websites that show companies like Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil Corp., Duke Energy and Peabody sit on ALEC’s energy, environment and agriculture task force and have a hand in crafting energy legislation.

“There are 29 states that have renewable portfolio standards, and it’s my understanding that ALEC is targeting each one,” said Bill Gupton, an outreach director at Consumers Against Rate Hikes.

Renewable energy development on the state level has drawn much of the energy sector’s attention in recent months as efforts to forge a climate bill on Capitol Hill become increasingly unlikely.

Kelley said that although the notion of RPS programs being reversed could be devastating for the renewable energy industry, he doesn’t believe ALEC will get far. “You can find someone to introduce a bill, but that doesn’t mean you can find someone to pass it,” he said.

For its part, ALEC says interest in repealing the state programs stems from the lawmakers themselves, not the conservative coalition as a whole.

ALEC, which does not disclose its membership or sources of funding, is simply a “platform” where lawmakers repeatedly raise the concern that consumers should not be forced to pay for politically backed energy sources like solar and wind through mandates, said Todd Wynn, who directs ALEC’s energy, environment and agriculture task force.

“The characterization of this issue in particular is often misleading,” Wynn said. “I think that, often, our opposition and advocates of renewables energy think that ALEC is opposed to renewables, when we’re not.”

Some renewable energy companies and firms that manufacture goods needed to produce renewable energy belong to ALEC and don’t leave the group — even if they disagree with some policies — because they want to discuss hot-button issues, he added.

ALEC expects a handful of states to introduce bills to repeal RPS programs in February and March and full repeals to be implemented in 2014, Wynn said.

“Members are driving the debate. … Our state legislators have taken up the torch on these issues,” he said. “But ALEC itself isn’t driving an energy mandate repeal campaign.”

‘Dream come true’

Tracking ALEC’s connection to state lawmakers and particular legislation has become more difficult because the group is increasingly savvy about how it reaches out to state legislators, and model bills don’t always match measures that are introduced, said Connor Gibson, a researcher at Greenpeace.

For now, green groups are left checking state legislators’ membership in ALEC and speaking engagements, and waiting for bills to be introduced.

Such is the case in North Carolina, where state Rep. Mike Hager , a member of ALEC, is poised to introduce a bill next month that would repeal the state’s RPS program. North Carolina currently requires utilities to procure 12 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2021.

Hager, a former engineer for Charlotte-based Duke Energy, said during an interview today that ALEC isn’t helping him write his legislation. Instead, Hager said he’s a free-market, conservative Republican who doesn’t believe the United States should subsidize renewable energy when large quantities of cheap coal, gas and oil exist. He added that he does his own research.

“It’s just the central philosophy of the government subsidizing the industry,” Hager said. “It’s a logic issue.”

Duke Energy, a member of ALEC and large player in North Carolina, is trying to sidestep the debate.

Duke spokesman Dave Scanzoni said the utility hasn’t taken a formal position on the bill, and the decision to implement or repeal renewable portfolio standards should be “state specific.”

“Though we’re a member of ALEC, we don’t always agree with every issue that the organization or any other organization of which we’re a member takes,” he said, adding that Duke is a member of a wide array of liberal and conservative groups.

But a spokesman for Duke told the Charlotte Business Journal last May that the utility indeed opposes Hager’s bill and helped craft North Carolina’s RPS. Duke also opposes ALEC’s position to curb U.S. EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions and coal ash storage and set standards for mercury emissions, the spokesman said.

Gibson said ALEC’s push to repeal state renewable programs puts Duke in an awkward position.

“They’re still paying ALEC to do work that they say they don’t support,” he said. “This particular bill is attacking a law that Duke helped create.”

Green groups are suspicious that similar efforts could be under way in Virginia, Ohio, Kansas, Arizona, Missouri and Wisconsin. All are states that, like North Carolina, have Republican majorities in the legislature (control of the state Senate in Virginia is split, though a Republican lieutenant governor can break tie votes). Of those states, only Missouri has a Democratic governor.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, is backing two bipartisan pieces of legislation to eliminate incentives that utilities receive for complying with the state’s voluntary RPS program.

Cuccinelli’s office said the bills would remove the “extra” payments that customers must make while ensuring that the state’s utilities generate 15 percent of their power from renewables by 2025.

“In short, Virginians can expect to have the same amount of renewable electricity as they would have had under the current law, but will pay less for it,” said Caroline Gibson, a spokeswoman for Cuccinelli.

But Beth Kemler, director of Virginia’s Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said that the legislation is a “de facto repeal” of the state’s RPS program and that Cuccinelli has been known to speak at ALEC events.

“We certainly can’t draw any straight lines from ALEC to this bill, but … we can draw a straight line from ALEC to Cuccinelli — he has spoken at their events,” Kemler said. “We basically think of the [bill] as a very smart backhanded way to get rid of the RPS.”

Cuccinelli’s office said today that the attorney general is not an ALEC member.  Editor’s note:  We do not know if Cuccinelli is a current member of ALEC as Legacy Memeberships are extremely difficult to research and prove, HOWEVER, Cucinelli was a member of ALEC as recently as 2008

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This article was written by Hannah Northey and posted at http://eenews.net/public/Greenwire/2013/01/30/1
Greenwire

Koch Brothers Produce Counterfeit Climate Report to Deceive Congress

The octopus has a remarkable ability–it can blend seamlessly with its surroundings, changing its appearance to mimic plants, rocks or even other animals.

Similarly deceptive is an upcoming junk study from a Koch-funded think tank that has taken on the format and appearance of a truly scientific report from the US Government, but is loaded with lies and misrepresentation of actual climate change science. The false report is a tentacle of the Kochtopus–with oil and industrial billionaires Charles and David Koch at the head.

The report’s disgraced author, Patrick Michaels, has made his largely undistinguished career shilling for fossil fuel interests, including his stay at the Cato Institute, which published the counterfeit report. After admitting to CNN that 40% of his funding is from the oil industry alone, even Cato was embarrassed enough to clarify that “Pat works for Cato on a contract basis, not as a full-time employee. Funding that Pat receives for work done outside the Cato Institute does not come through our organization.”

Koch Industries Chairman and CEO Charles Koch co-founded the Cato Institute in 1977, and David Koch sits on Cato’s board of directors. Both brothers are Cato shareholders.

The Kochs’ combined $62 billion in wealth comes from Koch Industries operations in oil refining, pipelines, tar sands exploration, chemical production, deforestation and fossil fuel commodity trading, all of which contribute to global climate change and the types of extreme weather Americans are now starting to recognize as symptoms of global warming.

Wary of how public concern over climate change could drop demand for fossil fuel products, the Kochs have spent the last 15 years dumping over $61 million to front groups telling us that global warming doesn’t exist, or that it would destroy our economy to stop runaway climate change. Other billionaire families like the Scaifes and companies like ExxonMobil have funneled tens of millions more to the same groups to bury climate science in public relations schemes designed to delay solutions to global warming. While Cato got over $5.5 million from the Kochs since 1997, it received over $1 million from the Scaifes, $125,000 from ExxonMobil and tens of millions more from other fossil fuel interests and ideologues in the top 1%.

Koch Industries cato institute kato

Cato Institute: a Koch Industries subsidiary?

In a highly public battle earlier this year between the Koch brothers and libertarians at the Cato Institute, some Cato employees didn’t want their work to become what David Koch calls “intellectual ammunition” for other Koch fronts like Americans for Prosperity. Cato’s deceptive climate report is exactly the type of fake science that AFP needs in order to continue lying to the American public about the reality of global warming.

Cato’s counterfeit report is classic global warming denial, loaded with deceptive information that is clearly designed to be confused for actual science…

To read this Greenpeace report by in its entirety, and watch their embedded video, please click here.  There is a lot more to this story, and we recommend that you click on all of the blue links in this report for even more information.

 

 

 

Coalition letter to DNC: Tell Duke Energy to Dump ALEC!

Today, Greenpeace and the Coalition to March on Wall Street South sent a letter to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, highlighting the DNC’s connection to the American Legislative Exchange Council through Duke Energy.

In May, Duke gave ALEC $50,000 for its meeting in Charlotte, NC and has consistently offered staff support at multiple levels of ALEC operations. Now it’s providing office space and a ten million dollar loan for the Democratic National Convention, also in Charlotte. Beyond acting as a political double-agent, Duke Energy’s heavy support for ALEC’s anti-environmental work goes against its own commitments to take climate change and clean energy seriously.

To read all of this excellent Greenpeace USA article by Connor Gibson and to download the pdf file of the complete letter sent to DWS, please click here.