Washington Post

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

Koch Brother Fronts Flood into Kansas to Attack Wind Industry

Koch Brother Fronts Flood into Kansas to Attack Wind Industry

A recent flood of Koch-supported think tanks, junk scientists and astroturf groups from inside and outside of Kansas are awaiting the outcome of a bill this week that could stall progress on the growth of clean energy in Kansas.

Climate Crime SceneStates around the country, including Texas, Ohio, Missouri and North Carolina are poised to cut back on government support for clean energy jobs using model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC, which brings companies together with state lawmakers to forge a wish list of corporate state laws behind closed doors, is coordinating this year’s assault on state laws that require a gradual increase of electricity generated by clean energy sources.

ALEC and a hoard of other Koch-funded interests operating under the umbrella of the State Policy Network have hit Kansas legislators hard with junk economic studies, junk science and a junk vision of more polluting energy in Kansas’ future. Koch Industries lobbyist Jonathan Small has added direct pressure on Kansas lawmakers to rollback support for clean energy.

This fossil fuel-funded attack ignores the good that wind energy has done for Kansas, a state known for its bipartisan support for its growing wind industry (see key report by Polsinelli Shughart). The state now has 19 operating wind farms that have brought millions to farmers leasing their land and millions more to the state, county and local levels (NRDC). The American Wind Energy Association says that Kansas wind industry jobs have grown to 13,000 with the help of incentives like the renewable portfolio standard.

Unfortunately, clean energy is not palatable to the billionaire Koch brothers or the influence peddlers they finance. All of the following State Policy Network affiliates (except the Kansas Policy Institute) are directly funded by the Koch brothers, while most of the groups get secretive grants through the Koch-affiliated “Dark Money ATM,” Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which have distributed over $120,000,000 to 100 groups involved in climate denial since 2002.

Beacon Hill InstituteBeacon Hill Institute

  • $53,500 grant from Donors Trust in 2007
  • Koch-funded (Washington Post)
  • State Policy Network member

Based out of Suffolk University’s economics department, the Beacon Hill Institute wrote the fundamentally flawed analysis that ALEC is using to scare legislators into thinking that renewable portfolio standards will destroy the economy. In reality, electricity prices do not correlate with state RPS laws (see also Kansas Corporation Commission).

An extensive debunk of the Beacon Hill report was done by Synapse Energy Economics, and similar critiques can be read in the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Morning Sentinel, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Nature Resources Defense Council and the Washington Post.

The definitive Post article confirms that the Beacon Hill Institute is Koch-funded. This may be through $729,826 in recent grants (2008-2011) from the Charles G. Koch Foundation to Suffolk University. The Kochs tend to send grants to economics departments, causing controversy at Florida State University and other schools over professor hiring processes.

Beacon Hill’s Michael Head co-authored the reports that ALEC and the State Policy Network are using in several states. Mr. Head specializes in STAMP modeling, a form of economic analysis that has been criticized for its limitations and poor assumptions in the case of energy analysis.

Michael Head testified before the Kansas legislature on February 14th to promote the flawed findings of his report. Mr. Head testified alongside members of the Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Policy Institute (see more on each, below), all of which are members of ALEC and SPN.

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC): alec

ALEC is leading the nationally-coordinated attack on state renewable portfolio standards as part of an ambitious dirty energy agenda for the members of its anti-environmental task force, like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, Duke Energy and other major oil, gas and coal interests.

ALEC’s “Electricity Freedom Act” is a full repeal of state laws requiring increasing electricity generation from clean sources, although in some states the model has morphed into a freeze of those targets rather than a full repeal. Kansas is one of those states.

The bills running through Kansas’ House and Senate are co-sponsored by legislators who are members of ALEC. The Senate Utilities committee sponsoring SB 82 has at least three  ALEC members and the House Energy & Environment committee that introduced HB 2241 has at least three ALEC members:

  • Senators Forrest Knox, Ty Masterson and Mike Petersen.
  • Representatives Phil Hermanson, Scott Schwab, and Larry Powell (member of ALEC’s anti-environmental task force that created the Electricity Freedom Act)

While it’s unclear if the lead House sponsor Rep. Dennis Hedke is directly affiliated with ALEC, he spoke directly with a Koch Industries lobbyist about the bill and has a close relationship with the Heartland Institute, which promoted one of his books.


The Heartland Institute:
heartland institute

Heartland is based in Chicago and perhaps best known for its billboard comparing those who recognize climate change with the Unabomber (for which they lost over $1.4 million in corporate sponsorship along with the “mutiny” of their entire Insurance department, now the R Street Institute).

The Washington Post reports that ALEC’s “Electricity Freedom Act” was created by the Heartland Institute. Heartland has long been a paying member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force along with Koch, Exxon and others. Citing the flawed Beacon Hill reports, Heartland has encouraged a repeal of Kansas’ clean energy incentives on its website.

Heartland lawyer James Taylor testified before the Kansas legislature in February, opining that the growth of Kansas’ clean energy sector is “punishing the state’s economy and environment.” James Taylor was flown into Kansas City for an Americans for Prosperity Foundation event intended to undermine the Kansas RPS law. The AFP Foundation is chaired by David Koch.

Americans for Prosperity:David Koch at AFP event

  •  State Policy Network member; ALEC anti-environmental task force member
  • Chaired by David Koch, founded by Koch executivesChairman

David Koch at an
Americans for Prosperity event

Americans for Prosperity was created by the Kochs with help from Koch Industries executive Richard Fink after the demise of their previous organization, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), which split into AFP and FreedomWorks in 2004.

In addition to hosting an event against the Kansas RPS law featuring Heartland’s James Taylor, AFP’s Kansas director Derrick Sontag testified before the Kansas House committee on Energy and Environment. AFP’s Sontag urged for a full repeal rather than a simple RPS target freeze:

“We believe that HB 2241 is a step in the right direction, but that it doesn’t go far enough. Instead, AFP supports a full repeal of the renewable energy mandate in Kansas.”

Derrick Sontag apparently only cited a range of debunked studies (the “Spanish” study and the flawed Beacon Hill report) and information from Koch-funded interests like the Institute for Energy Research and “State Budget Solutions,” a project of several State Policy Network groups including ALEC and the Mercatus Center, a think tank founded and heavily-funded by the Kochs.

Kansas Policy InstituteKansas Policy Institute

The Kansas Policy Institute (KPI) has been the central coordinating think tank within Kansas as outside interests have backed ALEC’s attack clean energy laws. KPI co-published the debunked Beacon Hill Institute report that ALEC has used for its clean energy standard repeal in Kansas (see sources in Beacon Hill section above for debunking).

Kansas Policy Institute Vice President & Policy Director James Franko testified in the Kansas legislature alongside representatives of Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity and Beacon Hill Institute on Feb. 14 to weaken Kansas’s renewable portfolio standard.

Reasserting the false premise that clean energy standards substantially increase electricity prices, James Franko told the legislature’s Energy & Environment committee:

We have no objection to the production of renewable energy. […] Our objection is to government intervention that forces utility companies to purchase more expensive renewable energy and pass those costs on to consumers.

James Franko’s free market logic comes with the usual holes–no mention of the “costs” of coal and other polluting forms of energy that taint our air, water and bodies, nor any mention of how the government spends billions each year propping up the coal and oil industries.

After KPI’s Franko testified before Kansas legislators on February 14, KPI hosted a luncheon for legislators at noon on the same day. The luncheon, hosted at the Topeka Capital Plaza Hotel, featured Beacon Hill’s Michael Head. From KPI’s email invitation:

“Given the importance of this issue, we would like to invite you to join us for lunch on Thursday 14 February to hear from the author of a study we published last year exploring the costs and benefits of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Not only will we be discussing KPI’s study but offering a review of different studies that have been presented to the Legislature.”

KPI has served as the glue for other State Policy Network affiliates entering Kansas to amplify the opposition to clean energy.

Chris Horner — Competitive Enterprise Institute & American Tradition Institute

Chris Horner is a senior fellow at CEI and the lead lawyer at ATI, a close CEI affiliate known for its litigious harassment of climate scientist Michael Mann alongside Virginia attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who just worked with coal utility companies to kill Virginia’s renewable energy law. ATI was behind a leaked memo encouraging “subversion” among local groups opposed to wind energy projects.

Horner testified before the Kansas legislature on February 12 to encourage the false notion that the renewable energy portfolio standard is going to make consumer electricity bills skyrocket (again, there is no correlation between state RPS laws and electricity prices). He cited the long-debunked “Spanish” study, which Koch front groups have cited for years in attempts to undermine clean energy.

Horner is affiliated with several other Koch- and Exxon-funded State Policy Network affiliates such as the National Center for Policy Analysis and Tech Central Station (set up by DCI Group).

Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform:Americans for Tax Reform

ATR president Grover Norquist wrote a Feb. 27, 2013 letter supporting the Rep. Dennis Hedke’s House bill shortly before the bill was kicked back into the House Utilities commission. This Kansas letter followed an ATR op-ed in Politico encouraging rollbacks of state clean energy incentives, claiming they are a “tax,” which is Norquist’s consistent tactic against anything the financiers of ATR don’t feel like supporting.

Junk scientists with Koch and Exxon ties:

Disgraced scientists Willie Soon and John Christy were flown in by Americans for Prosperity to assure state legislators that global warming isn’t a problem (it’s already a $1.2 trillion problem annually). Doctor’s Soon and Christy themselves directly funded by Koch or directly affiliated with several Koch-funded interests like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Heartland.

Willie Soon in particular has a habit of conducting climate “research” on the Willie Soonexclusive dime of coal and oil interests over the last decade:

  • ExxonMobil ($335,106)
  • American Petroleum Institute ($273,611 since 2001)
  • Charles G. Koch Foundation ($230,000)
  • Southern Company ($240,000)

Dr. Soon’s questionable climate research now receives funding through the Donors Trust network–$115,000 in 2011 and 2012.

See Skeptical Science’s profile of John Christy for a through explanation of why he is not a credible voice in the scientific community studying climate change, using peer-reviewed climate research as refutation.

State Policy NetworkSPN

KOCH INDUSTRIES koch industries logo

  • Based in Wichita, Kansas
  • Operations in oil refining, oil and gas pipelines, fossil fuel commodity & derivatives trading, petrochemical manufacturing, fertilizers, textiles, wood and paper products, consumer tissue products, cattle ranching, and other ventures.
  • $115 billion in estimated annual revenue
  • 84% private owned between brothers Charles Koch and David Koch, each worth an estimated $34 billion (Forbes) to $44.7 billion (Bloomberg).
  • Member of ALEC’s anti-environmental task force
  • Associated foundations fund State Policy Network, ALEC, Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity, Beacon Hill Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Americans for Tax Reform and Dr. Willie Soon.
  • Koch brothers founded Americans for Prosperity and helped establish the Heartland Institute.

The money trail of the out-of-state groups inundating Kansas with their sudden interest in killing the state’s incentives for wind energy leads back to the Koch brothers. While Koch Industries has deployed its own lobbyists to compliment the effort, the brothers who lead the company have tapped into their broader national network to aid the fight against clean energy in Kansas.

Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who own Koch Industries, have spent over $67,000,000 from their family foundations on groups who have denied the existence or extent of global climate change, promote fossil fuel use and block policies that promote clean energy development.

The Kochs obscure millions more in annual giving through Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which collect money from the Kochs and other wealthy corporate interests and pass it on to State Policy Network groups.

This video provides a visual overview of how the Koch-funded network amplifies unscientific doubt over climate science and blocks clean energy policies.  Please click here to watch.

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This article is written by Connor Gibson and is published at http://greenpeaceblogs.org/2013/03/11/koch-brother-fronts-flood-into-kansas-to-attack-wind-industry-report/

greenpeace

 

For-Profit College Scams Involve Many ALEC Corporate Members

This is a difficult story to post.  Noted writer David Halperin has penned a number of articles detailing how many for-profit colleges are nothing more than taxpayer defrauding scams.

Here are some blurbs from these articles so that you may read up on this despicable subject.  The article titles, which are in blue, are the links to the articles themselves.

Sen. Harkin’s Report: For-Profit Colleges Leave Students With Debt But No DegreeJuly 29, 2012
For-profit colleges now account for about 10 percent of U.S. students but 25 percent for federal financial aid and nearly half of all student loan defaults. Many schools get 85-90 percent or more of their revenues from federal taxpayers, and they spend most of it on items like marketing, recruiting, and big executive salaries, rather than education and job placement. Not all for-profit colleges are that bad, but many, including most of the big ones, are.

Exclusive: Washington Post’s Kaplan and Other For-Profit Colleges Joined ALEC, Controversial Special Interest Lobby
For-profit colleges are the ultimate special interest. Many receive around 90 percent of their revenue from federal financial aid, more than $30 billion a year, and many charge students sky-high prices. In recent years, it has been fully documented that a large number of these schools have high dropouts rates and dismal job placement, and many have been caught engaging in highly coercive and deceptive recruiting practices. Yet when the bad actions of these predatory schools got publicly exposed, the schools simply used the enormous resources they’ve amassed to hire expensive lobbyists and consultants, and to make campaign contributions to politicians, in order to avoid accountability and keep taxpayer dollars pouring into their coffers.

4-Year Students At For-Profit Colleges Graduate Less Than Half As Often As Other Students, But Their Schools Do Create Jobs — For Lobbyists–April 2, 2012
The report underscores how expensive these for-profit schools are, despite their weak programs.  For full-time students attending four-year public colleges or universities, average price before financial aid grants was about $16,900 and $10,200 after; for nonprofit private schools, the average price before grant aid was about $32,700 and after aid $16,700; and for for-profit colleges, average price before grants was about $27,900 and $23,800 after – which, coupled with the high dropout rate, makes plain why so many for-profit college students are left with insurmountable debt.

Controversial For-Profit College Industry Gets Half of All The Funds From Vets Tuition Program–February 23, 2012
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) just released new Defense Department data showing that the troubled for-profit college sector — which has left many American deep in debt — received half of all military Tuition Assistance dollars last year — $280 million out of $563 million for college grants for active duty military.  During their decade of explosive growth, for-profit education companies have sent armies of high-pressure recruiters to military bases and set up makeshift campuses right nearby.  More recently, they have sent armies of lobbyists to convince the Obama Administration and Congress that they should not be held accountable.

George W. Bush To Speak At Vegas Convention Of For-Profit College Industry Enriched By His Administration–February 15, 2012
Bush is an appropriate speaker, in a sense, because his Administration’s deliberate actions made it easier for bad actors among for-profit schools to engage in a decade of waste, fraud, and abuse that earned them billions in profits but has left many former students deep in debt and without job prospects. Bush’s appearance is “presented” by Pearson, the education publishing company whose nonprofit foundation is now under investigation by the New York attorney general for allegedly seeking to improperly influence state education officials with free trips to destinations like London, Helsinki, Singapore and Rio de Janeiro.  I am happy to report that this event was Occupied by #Occupy LasVegas/#Occupy Together

Romney’s ‘Policy Fundraiser’ Tomorrow Reveals Reliance On Ed Advisor Who Set Stage for For-Profit College Abuses–February 8, 2012
Mitt Romney, who has declared his admiration for for-profit colleges while receiving donations from for-profit education executives, boasts as a top education advisor a former George Bush official whose decisions in government helped unleash a decade of waste, fraud, and abuse by the for-profit college industry.  Oh boy!  Look what we have to look forward to in a possible Romney Administration.

Bill Gates Praises CEO of Washington Post’s Kaplan Unit, Whose Profits Benefit Gates Foundation–February 3, 2012
The Washington Post Company seems on the verge of turning its flagship newspaper into a brochure for the company’s controversial, taxpayer-funded for-profit college division, Kaplan. The latest participant in this process is one of the world’s most accomplished men, Bill Gates. At a time when veterans groups, state attorneys general, and others are seeking reforms to prevent abuses by for-profit schools, Gates recently published — in the Post — an enthusiastic review of a book by Kaplan’s CEO. Gates failed to inform readers that the finances of his own Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are linked to the Post / Kaplan’s profits.

And then there is the article in the Washington Post that had to hurt them to publish in an expose about their own participation in these scams:
Report finds for-profit colleges serve shareholders over students-July 29, 2012
…for-profit colleges have failed to support those students, the report states, by prizing recruitment over retention. The colleges studied spent 23 percent of their revenue on marketing and recruiting, the report found, and 17 percent on instruction.  The publicly traded companies that operate for-profit colleges yielded an average profit margin of 20 percent in 2009 and paid an average $7.3 million to their chief executives, the report found.