Fresh off last year’s successful defeat of federal climate legislation in the U.S. Senate, the oil baron Koch brothers and their dirty-energy buddies are now bent on dismantling one of the nation’s last hopes for doing anything about climate change in the near term: regional climate accords.
Today, a total of 32 states are active participants or observing members in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeast, the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, or the Western Climate Initiative.
That number will get a lot smaller if the American Legislative Exchange Council — a D.C.-based conservative advocacy organization funded by Koch family foundations, ExxonMobil, and other oil companies and big corporations — gets its way.
ALEC offers legislative templates to state lawmakers who don’t want the hassle of writing their own conservative bills. Raegan Weber, ALEC’s senior director of public affairs, says the group has produced 800 to 1,000 pieces of so-called “model legislation.” Access to those templates is restricted to legislators who pay $100 for a two-year membership, which makes it difficult to trace a bill’s language back to ALEC.
But thanks to a blog post by a conservative states-rights activist in Florida (and a tidbit in one of ALEC’s own press releases), we can make out at least part of what’s in ALEC’s template for “State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives,” one of the offerings on the group’s environment webpage. And it looks like the template has been getting a lot of use lately.
Language that regurgitates all of the right’s favorite — and in many cases fallacious — anti-cap-and-trade talking points has cropped up in nearly identical form in resolutions or bills in at least six states:
WHEREAS, there has been no credible economic analysis of the costs associated with carbon reduction mandates and the consequential effect of the increasing costs of doing business in the State of ______;
WHEREAS, forcing business, industry, and food producers to reduce carbon emissions through government mandates and cap-and-trade policies under consideration for the regional climate initiative will increase the cost of doing business, push companies to do business with other states or nations, and increase consumer costs for electricity, fuel, and food;
WHEREAS, the Congressional Budget Office warns that the cost of cap-and-trade policies will be borne by consumers and will place a disproportionately high burden on poorer families;
WHEREAS, simply reducing carbon emissions in the State of ______ will not have a significant impact on international carbon reduction, especially while countries like China, Russia, Mexico, and India emit an ever-increasing amount of carbon into the atmosphere;
WHEREAS, a tremendous amount of economic growth would be sacrificed for a reduction in carbon emissions that would have no appreciable impact on global concentrations of CO2;
WHEREAS, no state or nation has enhanced economic opportunities for its citizens or increased Gross Domestic Product through cap and trade or other carbon reduction policies; and
WHEREAS, Europe’s cap and trade system has been undermined by political favoritism, accounting tricks and has failed to achieve the carbon reduction targets,
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the legislature of the State of ______ urges the Governor to withdraw [state] from the regional climate initiative.
Last year in Michigan, the language appeared in a resolution [PDF] introduced in the state House of Representatives, demanding that the state drop out of the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord.
In New Hampshire, it popped up in the “findings” section of a House bill that would repeal the cap-and-trade system established under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The bill’s lead sponsor, state Rep. Richard Barry (R), looked a bit like a dog caught with the family cat in its mouth when he was asked to explain the language at a public hearing; he nervously said that none of the bill’s sponsors had written this particular section, but stopped short of revealing ALEC as the source of the text. That didn’t sit well with Rep. James Garrity (R), chair of the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee, who later explained, “Our committee does not feel that editorials belong in laws.” The matter was resolved by dropping the ALEC text, and the amended bill went on to pass the House.
The New Mexico resolution hasn’t fared so well; it stalled in committee, according to sponsor Rep. Tim Lewis (R). Unlike Barry in New Hampshire, Lewis readily acknowledges that the language in his resolution came from ALEC, but adds, “I am not a member of that group.” A first-term legislator who’s still busy learning the ropes in Santa Fe, Lewis admits he didn’t put much time into examining ALEC’s claims about cap-and-trade. As a teacher, he might be unhappy to learn the copycat text is full of questionable claims (find out just how questionable).
“I don’t mind being an observer in the Western Climate Initiative,” says Lewis, who is proud to support wind and solar power. He says he just worries that implementing cap-and-trade policies could hurt poor families in his state. Sound familiar?
Oregon state Rep. Kim Thatcher (R), sponsor of the resolution in her state, seems to be more thoroughly on board with the Koch brothers’ agenda. An aide to the lawmaker, who spoke on condition of not being named, said Thatcher contacted all the right groups before moving forward with the resolution, including: Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded organization that has been waging a very public assault on regional climate accords (get that story); the Heritage Foundation, recipient of more than $3.3 million in Koch funds from 1997 to 2008; and the Cascade Policy Institute, considered by Koch Industries to be one of the few reputable sources of information on “climate controversies.” For now, the resolution is stuck in committee.
In 2010, Greenpeace published a report about the Koch brothers’ funding of climate-denial groups, and Koch Industries responded by saying, “we believe science — not politicized opinion — must play a central role in the discussion about climate and related policy proposals. Both a free society and the scientific method require an open and honest airing of all sides.”
Can we look forward to an open airing of the ALEC text that’s being surreptitiously slipped into state-level bills and resolutions around the country? And will we see the text corrected so that it is in fact honest and all “politicized opinion” is removed?
- A debunking of questionable claims in the ALEC template
- Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity wages frontal assault on regional climate accords
- Regional cap-and-trade saves jobs and money
- The big-picture outlook for regional cap-and-trade agreements