John Locke Foundation

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.
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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

Media campaign against windfarms funded by anonymous conservatives

Secretive funding network channeled millions to stop state governments moving towards renewable energy

Anti wind farm lobby :  near Shabbona, Illinois

The trusts, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, served as the bankers of the conservative movement over the past decade, have funded a campaign against windfarms. Photograph: Alex Garcia/Getty Images

(editor’s note:  this article is describing the activities of groups involved in the ALEC/Koch Cabal)

 

Conservatives used a pair of secretive trusts to fund a media campaign against windfarms and solar projects, and to block state agencies from planning for future sea-level rise, the Guardian has learned.

The trusts, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, served as the bankers of the conservative movement over the past decade. Promising anonymity to their conservative billionaire patrons, the trusts between them channelled nearly $120m to contrarian thinktanks and activists, wrecking the chances of getting Congress to act on climate change.

Now the Guardian can reveal the latest project of the secretive funding network: a campaign to stop state governments moving towards renewable energy.

The campaign against wind and solar power was led by a relatively new entity, the Franklin Centre for Government and Public Integrity. The Franklin Centre did not exist before 2009, but it has quickly become a protege of Donors Trust.

The Franklin Centre, headquarters barely one-tenth of a mile away from the nondescript Alexandria, Virginia town home of its funders, received $6.3m from the two funds in 2011. It was the second largest disbursement to any entity by the Donors that year, according to tax records.

The largesse to the Franklin Centre signals a shift in priorities for the conservative billionaires who are funding the anti-climate cause towards local and state-level organising.

The backers of the anti-climate cause have eased off in their support of DC-centric thinktanks, said Whitney Ball, the chief executive and president of Donors Trust. “They are not as prominent any more.”

Instead, it appears the donors are banking on an aggressive anti-climate media strategy, led by the Franklin Centre, to push back against climate action.

In 2011, Donors Trust helped the Franklin Centre expand its media operations to Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, the Centre for Public Integrity reported in an investigation on conservative funding networks.

The Franklin Centre purports to be a hub for a network of “citizen journalists” and “watchdog” groups reporting from state capitals. It claims on its website to provide 10% of all daily reporting from state capitals across the country. It says it is on a mission to uphold a media culture of “transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility at the grassroots level”.

But the Pew Research Centre’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has ranked Franklin’s watchdog.org affiliates as “highly ideological”. Many of the media organisations listed on Franklin’s website as affiliates are ultra-conservative groups.

Among them are several that have been active in the past year or two to stop the expansion of solar power and windfarms.

In North Carolina, the two Franklin affiliates, the John Locke Foundation and the John W Pope Civitas Institute, also led effort for a ban on the term “sea-level rise”. The state legislature eventually voted in June last year to bar state agencies from taking into account future sea-level rise in development planning.

The groups have also led opposition to offshore wind development in North Carolina, organising workshops against windfarms.

Another Franklin affiliate, the New Jersey Watchdog, pushed for the state to drop out of a regional emissions cutting programme.

Other Watchdog affiliates have cast doubt on the link between extreme weather and climate change.

CPI found multiple ties between the Franklin Centre and groups such as Americans for Prosperity, which has been funded by Donors Trust as well as the conservative oil billionaire Koch brothers. Some of the Franklin Centre’s blogs have received funds from AFP. There was also cross-over of board members in the two groups.

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The article was written by, US environment correspondent for the guardian.co.uk,

Prospective Charter Schools Applications Surge Into Raleigh

A short while ago we posted The Assault on Public Education Continues in NC which noted the growth in Charter school applications in NC.  Here is a follow up article expanding on the subject.

This post is from the Carolina Journal Online, published by the John Locke Foundation–Art Pope’s think tank here in NC.  A well formed and influential magazine that supports radical right wing dogma.  They are part of the conservative echo chamber by which they overwhelm the public with “expert” supporters for the rad-right agenda.  This is a site worth looking at for no other reason than to see how it promotes this agenda.  I encourage you to learn about the John Locke Foundation by clicking here (once you have read the rest of this blog, I hope).

[Just for background for those who have not been following our blogs on NC:  Art Pope, is an ex-member of ALEC – might still be, we don’t know for sure–yet) and has been involved in Americans For Prosperity with, among others, David Koch.  Pope is said to use brother Charles Koch as a role model.  On the smaller stage of North Carolina as opposed to the international stage of ALEC, Pope has been incredibly influential in NC politics and is widely given credit for the super-majority that conservatives have in the state capitol.

Thom Tillis, who will be referred to later, is the Speaker of the House.  He is also a member of ALEC and was ALEC’s 2011 Legislator of the Year.  He is involved with their International Relations Task Force (chaired by NC’s Tim Moffit and the Philip Morris Corp.).  VLTP has written about ALEC’s international influence before, and is working to connect some final dots showing how multinational corporations are at the heart of a major amount of ALEC Model Legislation.]

The article is entitled Prospective Charter Schools Applications Surge Into Raleigh, and subtitled “But critics fear that state regulators will stifle innovation“.  Well framed as talking ponts–conservatives do this so well.  Sounds interesting, and it is–for the wrong reasons:

RALEIGH — Potential charter school operators, including two that would operate online, flooded the state with 154 letters of intent to open in fall 2014, punctuating a growing appetite for alternatives to traditional public education.
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