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How ALEC and Exxon Secretly Fracked North Carolina

  • Posted on: 17 July 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

Former EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt speaks at an ALEC event sponsored by ExxonMobil, among other dirty energy interests and Fortune 500 companies. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson through Bill Moyers.com)

Remember that controversial law last year, legalizing fracking in North Carolina after being vetoed by the state's governor? The law bears tell-tale signs of being written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate front group with ties to the fracking industry.

Like the Exxon-backed fracking loopholes in Ohio and numerous other states, the new North Carolina law contains the same "trade secrets" provisions that ensure the public will not have the right to know which chemicals gas frackers are pumping underground to retrieve shale oil and gas. The "trade secrets" provisions are key to ALEC's model bill in order to allow Exxon, Shell, Duke Energy and other ALEC member companies to more quickly extract, pipe and burn gas without having to bother with pesky transparency laws.

Here's a list of NC ALEC legislators who co-sponsored the bill legalizing fracking: S820 or HB1052 -- the so-called "Clean Energy and Economic Security Act"

  • Sen. Tom Apodaca
  • Sen. David Rouzer -- member of ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force, which created the frack fluid disclosure loophole bill with internal sponsorship by ExxonMobil.
  • Rep. Mike Hager
  • Rep. Tim Moffitt
  • Rep. Fred Steen -- ALEC's State Chairman in NC

Rep. Fred Steen co-sponsored the House version of the so-called "Clean Energy and Economic Security Act." Steen was ALEC's State Chair in North Carolina, and his job is to ensure ALEC models are introduced and, ideally for ALEC, passed. Rep. Steen was the only state legislator serving as State Chair in North Carolina (other states often have multiple legislators serving as co-chairs), and according to ALEC's tax forms, his position implies the following responsibilities (emphasis mine):

State Chairmen duties shall include recruiting new members, working to ensure introduction of model legislation, suggesting task force membership, establishing state steering committees, planning issue events, and working with the Private Enterprise State Chairman to raise and oversee expenditures of legislative 'scholarship' funds.

As ALEC's state chairman in NC at the time of this vote, Rep. Steen appointed a "Private Sector Co-Chairman" to help oversee ALEC activity in NC. In this case, Rep. Steen worked with North Dakota lobbyist Joel Gilbertson, who represents clients like AIG, PhRMA, and Crop Life America (a front group for pesticide and chemical fertilizer interests). Rep. Steen was listed on ALEC's website as its State Chairman since at least late 2008, suggesting that he has been re-appointed to that position at least once--a term lasts two years.

Ironically, co-sponsoring Rep. Mike Hager has been asked about his role in ALEC before, telling the Charlotte Business Journal that, "I'm not a big fan of model legislation." Apparently, keeping toxic chemicals secret from constituents is something Rep. Hager is a big fan of, in which case ALEC models are pretty useful. Rep. Hager has received $15,500 from oil, gas and electric utility interests in this election cycle, on top of $3,250 from his first successful election bid in 2010. One of the utilities donating to Rep. Hager is Duke Energy, his former employer, which operates natural gas pipelines that deliver to over 500,000 customers and is expanding gas generation at its power plants.

North Carolina's fracking loophole law has drawn attention from around the country, including a statement of support from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The new NC law barely overturned a veto by former Gov. Beverly Perdue, in a heartbreaking twist involving one Democratic legislator being bought out at the last minute and another accidentally voting in favor of the bill and refused the opportunity to correct her vote, something that is commonly acceptable when such a mistake is made. The Charlotte Observer explains:

Rep. Becky Carney, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County who opposes fracking, pushed the wrong button and accidentally voted with Republicans to override the veto. A maneuver by Wake County Republican Paul “Skip” Stam prevented her from changing her vote, giving the GOP a historic one-vote margin of victory. "It was a huge mistake,” Carney said afterward. “I take full responsibility.” Democrats denounced Stam’s quick parliamentary maneuver as a dirty trick that resulted in the passage of a landmark energy overhaul that could create a natural gas production industry in the state. [...] Carney said it was the first time in her 10-year legislative career that she pushed the wrong button on a vote. Mistaken votes are not uncommon and letting lawmakers change their votes is routine practice in the state legislature.

This local news clip posted by the Voter's Legislative Transparency Project, which tracks ALEC activity in North Carolina, includes more on Rep. Carney's error:

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Institute for Southern Studies: How renewable energy won in North Carolina

  • Posted on: 25 April 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

(Photo from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.)

This article by Sue Sturgis was crossposted from Facing South, the online magazine of the Institute for Southern Studies.

A bill that would have ended North Carolina's renewable energy program was voted down this week by a state House committee in a bipartisan vote by a surprisingly wide margin.

House Bill 298 was backed by more than a dozen conservative advocacy groups including the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the John Locke Foundation -- organizations that have considerable influence in North Carolina's Republican supermajority-controlled legislature.

So how did the measure lose?

In a word: jobs.

From the moment talk of repealing the state's renewable energy standard began intensifying following last year's election among conservative groups that have long denied the reality of global warming, the state's sustainable energy industry and environmental advocates pushed back by focusing on the law's track record of creating jobs and other economic benefits.

The N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, an industry lobby group, commissioned an economic analysis of the law, which passed in 2007 by a wide bipartisan margin and was the first of its kind in the Southeast. Released in February, the study conducted by RTI International and La Capra Associates found that North Carolina's law has been a driver of clean energy development, which in turn as been an important job creator for the state.

The researchers found that while the state's economy lost more than 100,000 jobs from 2007 to 2012, clean energy development led to a net gain in employment of 21,162 "job years" (one job that lasts one year) over the same period. It also found that tax credits used by renewable energy projects were important revenue generators for state and local governments, and that the bill would save ratepayers millions of dollars over the long term by avoiding construction of costly new power plants.

In all, the study found that North Carolina has reaped $1.7 billion in total economic benefits from the law over the past six years.

When the repeal bill came up for its first public hearing earlier this month in a House Commerce subcommittee, the only people who spoke in favor of it were from Americans for Prosperity and the Civitas Institute, another conservative advocacy group. The overwhelming majority of speakers praised the renewable energy law's positive economic impact. Besides owners of clean energy companies, they included farmers who have begun investing in systems to generate power from livestock waste methane, which counts as a renewable under North Carolina's law. They were also joined by rural economic development advocates who spoke about how clean energy generation has created jobs and expanded the tax base in struggling rural communities.

It proved a convincing message in a state with the nation's fifth-highest unemployment rate and entrenched poverty in rural areas, where many of the state's renewable energy projects are located.

Though the repeal bill squeaked by in its first subcommittee vote by 11-10, two key Republicans voted against it. State Rep. Mike Hager (R-Rutherford), a former Duke Energy engineer and House majority whip who was one of the bill's four primary sponsors and its most outspoken proponent, saw that his proposal was in trouble. He has made several revisions to the measure in an effort to win support.

This week the proposal was scheduled to be heard in the House Environment Committee chaired by Rep. Ruth Samuelson of Charlotte -- one of the Republicans who voted against the measure in the Commerce subcommittee. But on Monday, the measure was re-referred to the House Public Utilities Committee, which is chaired by Hager himself, for an April 24 hearing.

It was there that the repeal bill appears to have been defeated with the help of a half-dozen of Hager's fellow Republicans, including three GOP leaders. After a relatively brief half-hour debate in which lawmakers noted that the policy has brought investments and jobs to their districts, the committee voted 18-13 to kill the bill. The wide margin surprised many observers, who thought it would likely go either way by a single vote.

"This vote to defeat the REPS repeal bill was not just a good outcome, it was the right outcome," said Ivan Urlaub, executive director of the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association. "North Carolina businesses, ratepayers, workers, and state and local economies all had a stake in this outcome, and they all won a victory today."

While the bill appears dead for now, the possibility remains that it could come back in a revised form. Hager told the Associated Press after the vote that the sponsors are "going to try and patch it up."

In the meantime, Dallas Woodhouse, director of the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), told The News & Observer of Raleigh that Republicans who voted against the repeal "need to be held accountable." AFP and allied opponents of North Carolina's renewable energy law portrayed it as a burdensome tax on consumers. Duke Energy's residential customers pay 22 cents a month and Progress Energy's 42 cents to subsidize renewables under the law.

AFP had joined with the John Locke Foundation, a North Carolina think tank that has been a leading voice of climate science denial and an opponent of renewable energy initiatives, to launch a StopGreenEnergyTax.com website to promote the repeal bill. Following the bill's defeat, the Locke Foundation posted a statement saying the committee voted to continue a "raw deal for tax payers and rate payers."

The effort to repeal North Carolina's renewable energy law is part of a broader conservative attack against such laws in a number of states including Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Many of the groups involved in the repeal effort, including AFP, have financial ties to fossil-fuel interests.

Wind Group Dumps ALEC, Duke Energy Continues Contradicting Itself with ALEC Membership

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

Image: Checks & Balances Project - ALEC Attacks Clean Energy Standards: Ohio & Virginia

An article in Greenwire today revealed a few interesting things about the American Legislative Exchange Council's attacks on state clean energy laws through its "Electricity Freedom Act."

First, ALEC was recently abandoned by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) due to ALEC's efforts to repeal state renewable portfolio standards--laws that ensure a growing percentage of electricity comes from clean energy. AWEA joins over 45 companies and organizations that have dropped ALEC due to its support for voter legislation, Stand Your Ground and other NRA gun laws, climate science denial, racial profiling laws, and other measures against the public interest.

Not only did AWEA leave ALEC, but they're warning other ALEC affiliates about their steadfast opposition to clean energy (which ALEC denies--see below):

Now, AWEA is warning state lawmakers not to be taken in by ALEC's message, one that [Peter] Kelley said is driven by fossil fuel companies. He pointed out that conservative think tank and climate skeptic Heartland Institute told The Washington Post last year that it had joined ALEC to write language to revise state renewable energy mandates in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

"We want to warn our former fellow members of ALEC about that misinformation because we won't be around to protect them," he said.

Greenwire notes contradictory statements from coal polluter Duke Energy, which betrayed its own past support for North Carolina's clean energy standard, the law that ALEC's Rep. Mike Hager is targeting:

Duke Energy, a member of ALEC and large player in North Carolina, is trying to sidestep the debate.

Duke spokesman Dave Scanzoni said the utility hasn't taken a formal position on the bill, and the decision to implement or repeal renewable portfolio standards should be "state specific."

"Though we're a member of ALEC, we don't always agree with every issue that the organization or any other organization of which we're a member takes," he said, adding that Duke is a member of a wide array of liberal and conservative groups.

But a spokesman for Duke told the Charlotte Business Journal last May that the utility indeed opposes Hager's bill and helped craft North Carolina's RPS. Duke also opposes ALEC's position to curb U.S. EPA's ability to regulate carbon emissions and coal ash storage and set standards for mercury emissions, the spokesman said.

But wait! Not only does Duke Energy still pay ALEC, but Duke is member to the "Electric Reliability Coordinating Council," A.K.A. coal lobbyists from Bracewell & Giuliani paid by Duke and others to block EPA rules on mercury pollution from power plants. Duke and Progress Energy ranked 12th and 22nd respectively of the top 25 mercury polluters in 2011 before they merged last year.

Meanwhile, Duke Energy lobbyists like Bill Tyndall have worked on blocking effective controls for coal ash, which contains neurotoxins, carcinogens and radioactive elements. Duke has a coal ash pollution monopoly in North Carolina, with tests confirming they are contaminating groundwater near their storage sites. Duke's opposition to coal ash regulations is also inherent in their membership with yet another front group, the American Coal Ash Association.

So maybe Duke Energy doesn't support ALEC's opposition to reducing mercury and coal ash pollution, they just support other groups willing to do those things for them.

Finally, ALEC's Todd Wynn is either dishonest or has a short memory.

In the Greenwire article, Todd Wynn was trying to make the point that ALEC legislators, not the corporate interests funding ALEC and driving its agenda, are taking the reins on repealing renewable energy. Greenwire quotes Wynn, emphasis added:

"Members are driving the debate. ... Our state legislators have taken up the torch on these issues," he said. "But ALEC itself isn't driving an energy mandate repeal campaign."

To that point, Todd Wynn fully contradicts himself--check out his own blog on the clean energy attacks, titled "ALEC to States: Repeal Renewable Energy Mandates." 

It's also ridiculous for Wynn to assert that ALEC legislators have "taken up the torch" on repealing clean energy laws--ALEC's model was written by climate science deniers at the Heartland Institute, not state legislators.

Mr. Wynn's job is to keep this debate centered around debunked economic arguments that obscure the ideological corporate agenda he is paid to advance. As an operative of the Koch-funded State Policy Network, an aversion to reality is a necessary component of his resume. Wynn previously worked for a SPN member group called the Cascades Policy Institute promoting climate science denial.

Todd Wynn says that ALEC isn't against clean energy, just against government favoring one energy industry over another. Yet ALEC has done nothing to repeal subsidies to the oil and coal industries, or loan guarantees to the nuclear industry, or any other comparable measure to their attacks on clean energy. That's because ALEC's anti-environmental legislation is supported and even written by ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Duke Energy, and other major polluters.

No wonder groups like AWEA and the Solar Energy Industries Association abandoned ALEC shortly after joining. ALEC's polluter agenda is already set, backed by dirty money, and not open for discussion.

The full article can be found in Greenwire, E&E Publishing: Wind, solar groups quit ALEC as conservative powerhouse targets clean-power programs 

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