Council of State Governments

ALEC/CSG Sham Chemical Disclosure Model Tucked Into Illinois Fracking Bill

Illinois fracking photoIllinois is the next state on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)‘s target list for putting the oil industry’s interests ahead of the public interest.

98 percent funded by multinational corporations, ALEC is described by its critics as a “corporate bill mill” and a lobbyist-legislator dating service. It brings together corporate lobbyists and right wing politicians to vote up or down on “model bills” written by lobbyists in service to their corporate clientele behind closed doors at its annual meetings.

These “models” snake their way into statehouses nationwide as proposed legislation and quite often become the law of the land.

Illinois, nicknamed the “Land of Lincoln,” has transformed into the “Land of ALEC” when it comes to a hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) regulation bill – HB 2615, the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation Act – currently under consideration by its House of Representatives. “Fracking” is the toxic horizontal drilling process via which unconventional gas and oil is obtained from shale rock basins across the country and the world.

HB 2615 – proposed on Feb. 21 with 26 co-sponsors – has an ALEC model bill roped within this lengthy piece of legislation: the loophole-ridden Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act.

As covered here on DeSmogBlog, this model bill has been proposed and passed in numerous statehouses to date. If the bill passes, Illinois’ portion of the DeSmogBlog,will be opened up for unfettered fracking, costumed by its industry proponents as the “most comprehensive fracking legislation in the nation.”

“If At First You Don’t Succeed, Dust Yourself Off and Try Again”

This isn’t ALEC’s first fracking-related crack at getting a model bill passed in Illinois. In 2012, the Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act – introduced as SB 3280 passed unanimously by the Illinois Senate but never passed the House.

SB 3280 isn’t merely an ALEC model, but is a Council of State Government’s (CSG) model, too, as covered here on DeSmog.

The “disclosure” standards’ origins lay in the Obama Department of Energy’s (DOE) industry-stacked fracking subcommittee, formed in May 2011 “to study the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and determine if there are ways, or even a necessity, to make it safer for the environment and public health.”

As exposed by The New York Times in April 2012, these “disclosure” standards were originally written by ExxonMobil, first passed in Texas in June 2011, and now serve as both an ALEC and CSG model bill for the states. I say “disclosure” – as opposed to disclosure – because the bill includes loopholes for “trade secrets,” a la the “Halliburton Loophole” written into the industry-friendly federal Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Section 77 of HB 2615, titled “Chemical disclosure; trade secret protection,” also includes the same trade secrets exemption from the ALEC/CSG ExxonMobil-written model bill.

Ever persistent, ALEC has taken the late pop diva Aaliyah’s words to heart with regards to chemical fluids “disclosure,” at first not succeeding and dusting itself off and trying again.

The FracFocus Façade

The oil and gas industry has chosen FracFocus as the entity to oversee the chemical disclosure process. An August investigation by Bloomberg News revealed that FracFocus offers the façade of disclosure while the industry tramples roughshod over communities nationwide.

“Energy companies failed to list more than two out of every five fracked wells in eight U.S. states from April 11, 2011, when FracFocus began operating, through the end of last year,” wrote Bloomberg. “The gaps reveal shortcomings in the voluntary approach to transparency on the site, which has received funding from oil and gas trade groups and $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.”

In reality, FracFocus is a public relations front for the oil and gas industry, as we reported here in Dec. 2012, explaining,

FracFocusdomain is registered by Brothers & Company, a public relations firm whose clients include America’s Natural Gas Alliance, Chesapeake Energy, and American Clean Skies Foundation – a front group for Chesapeake Energy.

Another Nov. 2012 Bloomberg investigation revealed that oil and gas corporations “claimed trade secrets or otherwise failed to identify the chemicals they used about 22 percent of the time,” according to its analysis of FracFocus data for 18 states.

Cosponsors Tied to ALEC, CSG

Five of the 26 Illinois House cosponsors are ALEC members: Reps. David Reis (R-119), Mike Fortner (R-95), Jil Tracy (R-93), Dennis Reboletti (R-97), and Patricia Bellock (R-94).

Further, three more cosponsors have ties to CSG. Rep. Ann Williams (D-11) and Rep. Pam Roth (R-75) both attended CSG Midwest‘s 2012 Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development (BILLD). Two of the sponsors of BILLD in 2012 included BP America and Enbridge Energy. Another, Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (D-97), is a 2005 CSG Midwest BILLD alumni.

The bipartisan “group of 26” took a total of $53,060 before the Nov. 2012 election, data collected from the National Institute on Money in State Politics shows.

How Will IL Regulate Fracking with 12 Inspectors?

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s 2012 budget included Department of Natural Resources (DNR) cuts to the tune of 13.5-percent for fiscal year 2013. The DNR is the regulatory body tasked to referee the fracking process under HB 2615, an agency which in the past decade has lost over half of its budget.

“Our agency has essentially been cut in half over the last decade. There are a lot of ramifications…You’re going to see a noticeable difference in the maintenance. It won’t be the fault of the people that work for us,” DNR Director Marc Miller said at a Feb. 2012 public forum in a foreshadowing manner. “It will be because we don’t have the resources.”

There are 12 inspectors in IL to oversee fracking regulation enforcement, among myriad other regulatory duties, down from 28 in 2005, as revealed in a recent Freedom of Information Act conducted by ProPublica.

“What we are looking for is a sustainable solution,” Miller said at the public forum. “We want to get to the point of having revenue we can count on to plan and to be able to do the programs we’re supposed to do for the public.”

Yet Miller believes more DNR cuts from Quinn are in the works in forthcoming budgets.

Earthworks pointed out in a Sept. 2011 report titled, “Breaking All the Rules: the Crisis in Oil & Gas Regulatory Enforcement” that numerous states – akin to Illinois – are vastly understaffed, underfunded and unable to do their jobs to protect the public. Predictably, this has led to under-enforcement, lending the oil and gas industry a free pass to contaminate without accountability.

And even with enforcement, Earthworks pointed out that because the penalties for breaking the law are so minimal, the industry simply passes this off as a tiny “cost of doing business.”

Bill Endorsed by Sierra Club/NRDC

Despite this reality, two major green NGOs – the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) – have come out in cautious support of the bill.

“NRDC is working to transition as quickly as possible to a clean energy future based on energy efficiency and renewable energy, but as long as we have to have dirty fossil fuels, our communities need the strongest rules in place,” NRDC’s Henry Henderson wrote in blog post, offering the important caveat that “Those rules are only as good as their enforcement, which needs to be robust and strict. And that is another issue that we will be following if this bill moves forward.”

No concerns are raised about Section 25 of the bill dealing with setbacks and prohibitions.

This section lends the industry the ability to conduct fracking operations within 1,500 feet of groundwater sources and 500 feet of schools, houses, hospitals, nursing homes, and places of worship. It also enables the industry to frack within 300 feet of rivers, lakes, ponds and reservoirs.

These regulations do not take into account the fact that the horizontal drilling portion of the fracking process extends between 5,000 and 10,000 feet. The sobering reality: none of these things would be protected under this bill’s current language.

Sierra Club, which came under fire last year for taking $26 million from gas giant Chesapeake Energy to fight against coal, sang a similar tune.

“We may not be able to decide whether fracking comes to Illinois, but we absolutely must decide to make sure we are as protected as we can be,” Sierra Club’s Jack Darin concluded on the Huffington Post  despite the fact that fracking has yet to begin in the state.

Other Groups Call for a Moratorium, Support Alternative Bill

Other groups are fighting for a different recently-introduced moratorium bill, SB 1418, which has one sponsor so far, Sen. Mattie Hunte (D-94).

That effort is being led by the Illinois Coalition For A Moratorium on Fracking, whose members include Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment (SAFE), MoveOn.org Illinois, Progressive Demcrats of America (PDA) Chicago and Illinois, Stop the Frack Attack on IL, Rising Tide, and Rainforest Action Network (RAN) Chicago.

“The moratorium will allow two years for a science-based investigative task force to look at current and ongoing studies on fracking,” the Coaliton’s press release in support of SB 1418 reads. “As new research continues to uncover more harmful effects of high-volume fracturing, both in the surrounding area and to the climate, ICMF, SAFE, and many other environmental organizations are committed to supporting studies on the procedure.”

SAFE, one of the Coalition members, will play host to a one-day summit called “The Fracking Truth” on Mar. 1 to rally people in support of the moratorium bill.

Please also read the attachment to this article Sponsors and Oil and Gas Money Before 2012 Election.pdf

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This article is written by Steve Horn, and can be seen at Desmogblog at http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/02/28/alec-fracking-chemical-disclosure-model-bill-illinois-regulation
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ALEC, CSG, ExxonMobil Fracking Fluid “Disclosure” Model Bill Failing By Design


Last year, a hydraulic fracturing (“fracking“) chemical fluid disclosure “model bill” was passed by both the Council of State Governments (CSG) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It proceeded to pass in multiple states across the country soon thereafter, but as Bloomberg recently reported, the bill has been an abject failure with regards to “disclosure.”

That was by design, thanks to the bill’s chief author, ExxonMobil.

Originating as a Texas bill with disclosure standards drawn up under the auspices of the Obama Administration’s Department of Energy Fracking Subcommittee rife with oil and gas industry insiders, the model is now codified as law in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.

Bloomberg reported that the public is being kept “clueless” as to what chemicals are injected into the ground during the fracking process by the oil and gas industry.

“Truck-Sized” Loopholes: Fracking Chemical Fluid Non-Disclosure by Design

“Drilling companies in Texas, the biggest oil-and-natural gas producing state,..

To read the remainder of this very informative article by Steve Horn at DeSmog Blog, please click here.

To read the actual ALEC Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid  Composition Act, please click here




NEW: RESEARCH EXPOSING INFLUENCE OF the AMERICAN LEGISLATIVE EXCHANGE COUNCIL (ALEC) OFFSHORE – NOW AVAILABLE

– BREAKING NEWS –
Researchers Take note of Comprehensive Research posted re ALEC’s Worldwide Reach

VLTP has been working with researchers from across the Atlantic on the ALEC connections and influence(s) abroad.  A website is now up and running with facts, documents, FOIA responses and materials related to ALEC’s efforts and pursuits upon and from within the European Union and UK Parliaments.

VLTP will begin an expose series to inform readers of the involvement and collaboration between ALEC and members of several countries in the near future – based in part upon the research developed by Na-Saighneain.  Look for the series to start the first of October or sooner.

You can find the link to Na-Saighneain.com research site on the sidebar to the right.

And you should definitely take a second look at Bob Sloan’s article at  http://www.vltp.net/alec/alec-new-partnerships-and-exposing-hidden-foreign-influences-with-a-comparison-to-the-ncsl as the reseach from Na-Saighneainsubstantiate many of the claims made by Bob Sloan in his artlcle.

What the Defections from ALEC Really Mean

You should all be aware of the group Color of Change, mentioned in conjunction with the ALEC corporate defectors along with Common Cause and other large national public interest groups sharing in the limelight.

What Color of Change did was to go to Coca Cola, for example, and say “we can’t have you selling your products in our black neighborhoods if you are going to be involved in legislation like Voter ID laws which prevent a lot of black people from voting”.  So Coke, not wanting to be shut out of black markets everywhere, says “oh my.  We didn’t know ALEC was writing legislation like that.  We quit them.”

Well, don’t believe for a second that Coca Cola participated in ALEC meetings and never heard a word about Voter ID laws or immigration laws, or women’s health laws, or any number of other radical right wing model legislation.  I can’t prove this because Coca Cola’s PR department is not taking questions on this subject and I wasn’t allowed into any of the ALEC meetings.  But none of the photos and videos we have of Coca Cola members at ALEC meetings—in social situations or in task force meetings–show them wearing blinders and ear plugs. 

So what exactly did Coca Cola do to get their “get out of jail free card” from Color of Change, MSNBC and Current TV commentators, big national public interest groups like Common Cause, and the written press?

Are they making any sort of amends for the ALEC written model legislation they voted for?  No. 

Are they making any sort of restitution to those directly hurt by model legislation that ALEC passed? No.

Did they make any apologies for what they did? No. 

Are they encouraging legislatures not to pass these hateful bills?  No. 

Are they now doing anything to help black voters register to vote?  Again, No.

Coca Cola issued a statement that “Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business.”

So apparently Coke’s involvement in pay-to-play influence peddling is okay.  What do you say about that Jack Abramoff?

Granted, this is the first crack in the wall of silence that has enveloped ALEC for more than 35 years, and that is very significant in and of itself.  We all sincerely hope that it leads to more.  But I’m not quite sure why many are touting these corporate defections as victories—especially because, and you’re not going to like this, because these corporations that are no longer bankrolling ALEC continue to engage in stealth lobbying through other Cabal members.   CSG, The Council of State Governments is such an organization.  This group, like ALEC, is a bill mill, in many cases writing very similar model legislation to that which ALEC writes.   Truthout has done some excellent reporting on CSG and how they are picking up the baton on ALEC legislation.

Coca Cola, which is being used as an example here but which is not alone among the defectors, belongs to CSG, as Truthout has reported

Then, there is the National Center for Public Policy Research, as recently identified by Rachel Maddow.  You have read here and elsewhere–like PR Watch–that because of the public outcry over the Stand Your Ground legislation and the murder of Trayvon Martin, ALEC has shut down the Task Force that wrote that legislation—their Public Safety and Elections task force.  Well, don’t get suckered in by the incredible PR of the Cabal.  Here is the lead on a press release by NCCPR:

New Voter Identification Task Force Announced

Voter ID Project Created in Response to Leftists’ Claim that Ten Corporations Joined Them in Successful Effort to Pressure ALEC to Stop Supporting Voter Integrity

Washington, D.C. The National Center for Public Policy Research today announced the formation of a “Voter Identification Task Force,” intended to continue the excellent work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in promoting measures to enhance integrity in voting.

The Cabal is extremely well funded and prepared, so as ALEC steps away from a key radical right wing political issue, up pop its replacements, organizations which Sourcewatch  has identified and which we at VLTP continue to research.  The National Center for Public Policy Research.  Or the Council for State Governments.  Or the Heartland Institute.  Or The Heritage Foundation.  Or the Mont Pelerin Society—trust me, you don’t want to know about the philosophy and the international reach of this uber conservative group.  Or the State Policy Network.  Or the Center for Civic Innovation.  Or the Cato Foundation.  And there are many more.  The cabal is financially and organizationally prepared to play whack-a-mole all day long with those of us who are trying to uncover it.  And you’ve got to give them a lot of credit for the way they frame everything they do, just listen to how noble these group names sound—why don’t Democrats learn from this? 

So, to come full circle with my argument, just what do these defections from ALEC really mean?