legislation

Virginia Clean Energy Under Threat from Cuccinelli, Coal Companies, ALEC and Koch Front Groups

  • Posted on: 30 January 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

Image credit: ReneweBlog

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli is working with coal companies and State Policy Network groups backed by Koch Industries to rollback VA's voluntary clean energy program.

In states across the country, the American Legislative Exchange Council--or ALEC--and other State Policy Network groups are lining up to roll back clean energy laws, an effort complimented by captured politicians like Mr. Cuccinelli.

Ken Cuccinelli is a former ALEC member, and he's working with ALEC member company Dominion Resources to end Virginia's clean energy program. The same Dominion that just gave him $10,000 for his run for governor, on top of almost $46,000 in previous years for other political positions.

While Virginia's voluntary renewable portfolio standard is far from perfect, it's neither helpful nor inspiring for Mr. Cuccinelli to scrap the program altogether on behalf of a few vested dirty energy interests.

Rather, as Chesapeake Climate Action Network suggests, Virginia's law needs to be strengthened in ways that increase clean energy production and the good jobs that come with it. Both Cuccinelli and CCAN agree the law has flaws and loopholes that don't properly incentivize new clean energy development within the state of Virginia. Some of the law's weaknesses:

  • Dominion Virginia and Appalachian Power have each qualified for ratepayer subsidies without actually building any new clean energy facilities in Virginia.
  • The law's loose definition of "renewable energy" ensures that filthy energy qualifies for government support, including burning gas collected from landfills and producing energy from trash incineration, which is dirtier than burning coal and are usually located in areas with disproportionately high populations of people living in poverty, often people of color.
  • Unambitious targets for the proportion of renewable energy production by 2025.
  • The program is voluntary in the first place.

So far, Mr. Cuccinelli has not seemed to notice legislation alternatives proposed by CCAN that would "tie any RPS bonuses to investment in Virginia-made wind and solar energy. This solution will ensure that Virginians are getting the benefits of a cleaner environment. It also creates a market that fosters growth in the renewable energy sector which will create thousands of jobs within our borders."

Ken Cuccinelli and Climate Science Intimidation:

The point of making clean energy competitive with dirty fossil fuels is to keep our air and water clean and avoid runaway climate change, an issue where Ken Cuccinelli has been aggressively counterproductive.

Mr. Cuccinelli is well known for his harassment of Michael Mann, a climate scientist vilified by industry apologists for creating the "Hockey Stick" graph illustrating the increase of average global temperature measurements over the last millennium.

Mirroring the scientifically unfounded attacks of State Policy Network outfits like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and American Tradition Institute, Cuccinelli was heavily criticized by a Virginia judge for not having an "objective basis" for accusations of fraudulent research at the University of Virginia. Cuccinelli's persecution of science has even put off other climate science deniers, according to a Greenpeace Freedom of Information Act request.

Demonstrating direct cooperation with Koch-funded State Policy Network groups, Ken Cuccinelli will attend an Americans for Prosperity event in Richmond, VA on February 7. Tea Party activists will be bussed in on the dime of Koch and other AFP donors to hear Cuccinelli speak along with David Koch's top PR captain--AFP president Tim Phillips--and other Virginia politicians like Lt. Governor Bill Bolling.

We'll see if the renewable energy rollback is a point of discussion at AFP's event. Americans for Prosperity has promoted a fossil fuel agenda since David Koch helped re-birth AFP from its predecessor, Citizens for a Sound Economy, which was also run by the Kochs and Koch Industries executive Richard Fink.

Ken Cuccinelli's Dirty Money:

Mr. Cuccinelli's financial conflicts of interest have drawn extra attention to this discussion on Virginia's commitment to renewable energy. Huffington Post reported that Intrust Wealth Management, a company whose board of directors has included Charles Koch since 1982, gave Cuccinelli $50,000 for his failed gubernatorial election bid, on top of a previous $10,000 from Koch Industries. Also on the Cuccinelli payroll were coal interests like Dominion Energy, CONSOL Energy and Alpha Natural Resources (which purchased the mountain top removal menace, Massey Energy).

Mr. Cuccinelli is used to being bankrolled by dirty interests. According to the National Institute for Money in State Politics, from 2003-2011 the following interests were top supporters of his VA Senate and Attorney General election campaigns:

  • COAL MINING AND BURNING$161,796
    • $46,500 from Dominion Resources -- ALEC member
    • $42,000 from Alpha Natural Resources
    • $10,000 from Massey Energy -- merged with Alpha after a fatal mining disaster
    • $33,000 from Consol Energy
    • $16,750 American Electric Power -- ALEC member
    • $6,996 from the Virginia Coal Association
    • $6,550 from Norfolk Southern, a railroad company that transports and markets coal
  • TOBACCO INTERESTS$58,000
    • $24,500 from Altria (owns Phillip Morris) -- ALEC member, ALEC Private Enterprise Board member
    • $10,000 from U.S. Smokeless Tobacco (owned by Altria)
    • $12,500 from Bailey's Cigarettes
    • $11,000 from S&M Brands (owned by Bailey's)
  • GUN LOBBY$17,000
    • $17,000 from the National Rifle Association (many of the illegal guns in this country are from Virginia gun shows) -- ALEC member
  • CORPORATE POLLUTER LOBBYING FIRMS: $19,562
    • $11,250 from Hunton & Williams, a corporate lobbying firm that runs the coal front group Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) to interfere with EPA pollution controls. Hunton was also caught up in a scandal to monitor and smear political opponents of Bank of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
    • $8,312 from Troutman Sanders, a corporate lobbying firm that has recently represented coal and tobacco interests like Duke Energy, the National Mining Association, Southern Company, Peabody Energy, and Altria.

Dirty energy interests like Dominion, AEP, Duke Energy, Peabody and others are using their political allies and groups like ALEC alike to attack renewable energy across the board, in coordination with a familiar public relations play that victimizes dirty coal operations and mocks all forms of clean energy.

Coal pollution from companies like these prematurely kill thousands of Americans each year. The Clean Air Task Force notes that government action to reduce coal pollution has a direct effect on reducing these needless deaths. A peer-reviewed report by the late Paul Epstein in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences estimated up to $500 billion--half a trillion dollars--in annual costs to society from the life cycle of coal.

Clean energy generation doesn't pose the same terrible threats to our economy, air, water, health, and the global climate that life on this planet is adapted to, but good luck telling that to Ken Cuccinelli, another politician captured by the pollution lobby.

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Duke Energy Uses ALEC to Attack Climate and Clean Energy Laws in Pay-to-Play Politics

  • Posted on: 17 July 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

In the lead up to this fall's Democratic National Convention, polluter giant Duke Energy has offered a $10 million loan. Good thing, since Duke CEO Jim Rogers has taken the lead on the remaining fundraising for the DNC and is now being criticized for doing a shoddy job of it amid his controversial takeover as CEO following a big merger with Progress Energy.

Lost amid this dramatic transition is Duke's ironic role in the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. ALEC is the infamous corporate bill mill that connects notably-conservative state lawmakers with lobbyists, PR agents and other representatives of companies ranging from Koch Industries to Phillip Morris to Pfizer. ALEC's agenda spans across Big Business priorities, creating template state laws that serve to deny climate change science, privatize schools, protect killers (as with the Trayvon Martin "castle doctrine" legislation) and disenfranchise voters through Voter ID laws.

Voter ID laws that Democrats call "suppressive," an ironic contrast to Duke's $10 million line of credit to the DNC.

Duke Energy is heavily invested in ALEC in several ways. Duke sponsors ALEC's meetings, dedicates its staff to help oversee ALEC's state operations, and consistently operates in ALEC's anti-environmental task force, a who's-who of polluters and apologists attacking clean energy legislation that Duke purportedly supports. Here's an overview of Duke's notable role in ALEC:

  • 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.
  • Duke representatives Chuck Claunch and Bonnie Loomis are liaisons to ALEC's Energy, Environment & Agriculture (EEA) task force, which ghostwrites state laws attacking regional climate programs, controls for hazardous coal ash storage, renewable energy standards, EPA enforcement of clean air and water laws, and numerous other polluter handouts written and approved by the oil, coal and public relations companies in the EEA task force's filthy roster.
  • Progress Energy's Kathy Hawkins and Jeanelle McCain are also involved in ALEC's EEA task force, further bloating Duke's influence within ALEC now that Progress is part of Duke Energy.

Duke has told the press that it doesn't agree with all of the EEA model bills, specifically attacks on renewable energy and reductions in greenhouse gases. This is deceitful, since such laws are at the core of ALEC's anti-environmental task force and have constantly evolved to match changes in political trends. If Duke doesn't support the purpose of this task force, then why is it offering up Duke stafff and money beyond its ALEC membership dues?

Beyond Duke's active participation within ALEC's anti-environmental task force, Duke has also positioned its operatives in two states to help oversee further fundraising and recruitment for ALEC.

Duke and ALEC in South Carolina

Duke's South Carolina Regional Director Chuck Claunch was handpicked by ALEC's State Chairmen in South Carolina to help fulfill their obligations to recruit new ALEC members, raise money, and other responsibilities detailed in ALEC's own IRS tax filings [PDF p.36]. Since Mr. Claunch is also part of ALEC's anti-environment task force, it's possible he helped create model bills that became South Carolina law. Also acting as a private sector co-chair in South Carolina is Progress Energy's Jeanelle McCain, another member of ALEC's anti-environmental task force. With the Duke-Progress merger now made official, it is unclear how Mr. Claunch and Ms. McCain may shift roles, or if Duke's influence in South Carolina is expanding through ALEC.

Known ALEC South Carolina legislators who work with Duke and other polluters in ALEC's EEA task force:
  • Rep. Dwight Loftis
  • Rep. Nelson Hardwick
  • Rep. Bill Sandifer
  • Rep. Jeffrey Duncan

Working alongside ALEC's State Chairmen in Indiana (Rep. David Wolkins and Sen. Jim Buck) is Duke's Vice President of Government Affairs, Julie Griffith. Beyond the numerous contradictions detailed in this blog, perhaps Ms. Griffith would like to explain her role in ALEC, a notable front for the tobacco industry, and her position as chair of the executive leadership team of the American Lung Association. That and her political work for a company that causes lung damage from coal pollution. Just as in South Carolina, Rep. Wolkins and Sen. Buck chose Duke's Julie Griffith to help them oversee ALEC's operations in Indiana, primarily fundraising. Known ALEC legislators in Indiana who have been part of ALEC's EEA (Energy/Env/Ag) task force:
  • Rep. David Wolkins (EEA task force chair, 2011 ALEC legislator of the year, ALEC State Chairman in IN)
  • Rep. Wesley Culver
  • Rep. Brian Bosma
  • Rep. Heath Van Natte

ALEC: Duke Energy partners with Koch Industries, Exxon, Peabody, Heartland, ACCCE, Art Pope...

While over 25 companies have dropped ALEC, including Walmart, Best Buy, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, John Deere, Dell and numerous others, Duke continues to staff and fund ALEC alongside ExxonMobil, BP, Koch Industries, Peabody Energy, and other major polluters to dismantle state environmental protections across the country. 

So even though Jim Rogers says we should wean off of foreign oil, Duke conspires with multinational oil companies to attack climate solutions.

Typical.

The oil majors are only one example of Duke's secretive partnerships that contradict its statements on climate change and sustainability. ALEC's EEA task force includes operatives from climate science denying groups like the Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, the Goldwater Institute, and the John Locke Foundation, all of which have enjoyed support from the billionaire Koch brothers and North Carolina political overlord Art Pope.

By participating in ALEC's anti-environmental task force, Duke continues to partner with representatives of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a front group that Duke abandoned in 2009 when ACCCE's aggressive lobbying against national climate legislation became an obvious conflict of interest (and when ACCCE was caught up in a scandal involving fraudulent letters to Congress opposing climate legislation). Let us not forget that national climate legislation in 2009 essentially became a handout for major polluters like Duke who helped write the legislation.

Greenpeace recently released a new report detailing a Clean Energy Roadmap for Apple, highlighting progress Apple has made in using clean energy sources for its Cloud data centers while stressing that Apple is still far too dependent on coal-burning utilities like Duke Energy for its energy. While Greenpeace calls upon Apple to help shift the energy market in a cleaner direction, we are also asking Duke Energy to make a dramatic shift away from dirty coal, especially from destructive mountain top removal mining. Responding to Greenpeace, Duke Energy told CBS, "In North Carolina, we are allowed to buy non-mountaintop coal as long as the cost is not higher than conventional coal supply. Even if we wanted to pay more, we couldn't because the state mandates it."

Come on, Duke--you gave money to 115 of the 170 North Carolina legislators elected in 2010 and spent $19 million on federal and state political contributions during that election cycle alone. You are wrapping up your scandalous merger into the nation's largest utility company. If Duke wanted to strike down a mandate to use coal from the most destructive sources available, they could do it. Instead, Duke plays to its major strength: using clean PR to hide the dirty money it spends to hold our air, water and climate hostage with outdated, 20th Century energy.

Amid the sudden ouster of former Progress Energy CEO Bill Johnson and conflicts with ratepayers in multiple states, Duke already has plenty to be embarrassed about. Using ALEC to partner with the world's worst corporate citizens and climate science deniers gives Duke's other shames a run for their money.

In the name of transparent democracy, Greenpeace challenges Duke to disclose which ALEC model bills they have supported at ALEC meetings, whether by vote or through Duke sponsorship. Better yet, Duke should join the 30 companies and organizations who have cut ties with ALEC and its poisonous role in American politics.

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ALEC EXPOSED: Polluter Front Group's Dirty Secrets Revealed

  • Posted on: 18 July 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Crossposted from Greenpeace USA.

As revealed by The Nation and hosted by the Center for Media and Democracy’s new ALEC Exposed website, today marks a breakthrough in democratic transparency with the release of over 800 internal documents created by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

Who is ALEC?

Greenpeace has tracked the American Legislative Exchange Council and its role in the climate denial machine, along with the money it receives from polluters including Koch Industries and ExxonMobil to peddle doubt over established conclusions of climate scientists. Check out some of ALEC’s climate denier deeds at ExxonSecrets.


ALEC links state legislators with some of corporate America's largest and most dubious players—Exxon, Koch, coal giant Peabody Energy, and Reynolds Tobacco for example—to create model state legislation. State legislators who pay a small fee to become ALEC members are granted access to a large pool of draft bills and resolutions created by representatives of the corporate giants who finance ALEC, some of which also help govern the organization. ALEC creates a cover for state legislators who ultimately benefit from ALEC’s corporate supporters without having to disclose who pays for the corporate-handout policies they push in state houses across the country.

The Nation's John Nichols explains the ALEC agenda:

"ALEC's model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account. Corporate donors retain veto power over the language, which is developed by the secretive task forces. The task forces cover issues from education to health policy. ALEC's priorities for the 2011 session included bills to privatize education, break unions, deregulate major industries, pass voter ID laws and more. In states across the country they succeeded, with stacks of new laws signed by GOP governors like Ohio's John Kasich and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, both ALEC alums."

ALEC's Dirty Assault on Environmental Causes

ALEC has long served corporate polluters in attacking or preempting environmental protections through state laws. A revealing article in Grist linked legislative repeals from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to ALEC's draft legislation, offering polluters like Koch Industries another avenue of attack to bolster the work of other front groups, including Americans for Prosperity's pressure on states participating in RGGI. Center for Media and Democracy Executive Director Lisa Graves and The Nation have more details on the connection between Koch Industries and ALEC.

The over 800 internal documents revealed at ALEC Exposed brings other laws drafted by and for corporate polluters to light. Examples include:

• A 2010 resolution [PDF] resisting long-overdue EPA classification of coal ash as hazardous material. Coal ash is a leftover product from burning coal containing neurotoxins, carcinogens and radioactive elements—not the type of material that should be less regulated than household garbage (as it currently is).
 
• A 2009 resolution to dodge federal oversight of hydraulic fracturing [PDF] for natural gas by promoting state-level regulation of hydrofracking. New York Times reporting has shown state fracking regulations are notably insufficient. Currently, the private sector chairs of ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force are Tom Moskitis of the American Gas Association and Martin Schultz, a lobbyist for a large firm representing dozens of corporate heavyweights including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway and oil supermajor ConocoPhillips.
 
• A 2008 resolution [PDF] to challenge the federal offshore drilling moratorium, which ignores the reality that offshore drilling won’t reduce gas prices. ALEC’s [Exxon-funded] language uses the American taxpayer as an excuse to push for more dangerous offshore drilling even as giant oil companies like Exxon take billions in taxpayer subsidies and make record profits. Currently, the private sector chair of ALEC's Civil Justice task force (which adopted the resolution) is Victor Schwartz of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, a law firm representing Peabody and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
 

The range of ALEC's model legislation provides a historical record of the most aggressive efforts to combat environmental protection. A resolution from 1998 getting states to oppose the Kyoto protocol [PDF] apparently passed in ten states and was introduced or passed by one legislative chamber in another ten states, according to an ALEC speech transcript. A resolution from 2002 shows ALEC’s role in early efforts to hijack chemical security legislation. After the U.S. Senate adopted a bill (S.1602) in July, 2002 that would have conditionally required the use of safer processes at high risk chemical plants, ALEC fought back, approving a Resolution in Opposition to S. 1602 [PDF] a month later. That fall, the chemical security bill fell on its face.

More to Come...

Greenpeace is continuing to research the contents of ALEC's documents. ALEC's template environmental bills repeatedly attack clean energy, push the most dangerous and dirty fossil fuel developments and try to roll back safeguards that reduce pollution. We will continue to update you on what we find.

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Polluter Harmony: A Humorous Glace at Holmstead and Murkowski's Dirty Relationship

  • Posted on: 30 September 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Polluter Harmony Ad: Jeff's Story

PolluterWatch presents "Jeff's Story," based off of the real-life work of Lisa Murkowski and Jeffrey Holmstead to gut the Clean Air Act, which appears to be Holmstead's lifelong goal. 

For more, check out Jeffrey Holmstead's profile.

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Huffington Post: Koch Brothers Fighting Climate Legislation at State Level

  • Posted on: 29 September 2010
  • By: JesseColeman

The Kochtopus wants to destroy your clean energy future

 

Yet another tentacle of the "Kochtopus", the shadowy assemblage of front groups that helped kill this year's cap and trade bill, is attempting to strangle regional clean energy initiatives on the East and West Coasts.  The Kochtopus is a network of astroturf groups funded by the Koch brothers, who have made billions of dollars from Koch Industries, an enormous dirty energy corporation.

Not content with retarding progress on climate change at the federal level, industry-funded astroturf groups have taken aim at a regional cap-and-trade system in New York and the nation's most ambitious state clean energy program in California.

This time it is the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity that is protecting the billionaire brothers' ability to pollute.  Assisted by a conglomeration of 58 front groups called the State Policy Network, AFP and its allies have been clouding out the facts on climate change with lies and confusion.

Despite the amusing name, the Kochtopus is a very sophisticated and calculated propaganda apparatus that has seriously manipulated public opinion to the detriment of the American people and the planet.  The front groups that comprise it have proven very effective to their corporate puppeteers, who will continue to fund and exploit them to prevent much needed regulation of the dirty energy industry.  These groups must be recognized as pawns and charlatans before they further delay action against catastrophic global warming.

For more on this story, see the Huffington Post article by Robert Eshelman

 

 

  

 

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