ALEC Pushes Climate Change Denial Agenda at Annual Meeting
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It’s the third day of the annual meeting of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the well-moneyed group made up of large corporations and state lawmakers that drafts model laws in the interests of Big Business and rolls them out for passage in state legislatures.
Outside the swanky Palmer House Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago, protesters Thursday held the largest anti-ALEC demonstration to date; inside, legislators meet with representatives of some of the nation’s largest corporations, each of whom have paid tens of thousands of dollars to get the ear of the state lawmakers in attendance.
Climate change is one of the items on the agenda.
ALEC is actively involved in denying that climate change is real and opposing any limits on carbon emissions.
Climate change denier Joe Bastardi is the speaker at a plenary breakfast meeting entitled “A Thoughtful Approach to Climate Science.” At the annual meeting in 2011, a climate change session was entitled “Warming up to climate change: The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2.”
Bastardi, a television weather forecaster and frequent Fox News commentator, has called human-caused global warming an “obvious fraud” and said “there are plenty of other causes of [global warming] besides CO2.”
No response from ALEC
ALEC denied repeated requests from Lawyers.com for a press pass to attend the annual meeting. In addition, a voice mail left for Todd Wynn, ALEC staff director of the Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force, seeking comment for this article was not returned.
Corporate sponsors of ALEC include Exxon, Peabody Energy, and American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. They pay at least $50,000 each for full membership in ALEC, according to Calvin Sloan, a legislative researcher with People for the American Way who has researched ALEC’s legislative activities.
The purpose of the meetings is to instruct ALEC lawmakers on their policy initiatives. “This is a fossil fuels-funded agenda,” said Sloan.
ALEC’s legislative action on climate change is already underway. Some of the model laws it has drafted include a “State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives” that resolves to oppose regional initiatives to cap carbon emissions.
ALEC is also actively working to influence debate on the hot-button issue of fracking.
“We’re reaching an inflection point in the conversation around fracking. They’re aggressively prioritizing it. There are drastic climate implications,” said Sloan , who added that fracking causes huge releases of methane that can be worse than CO2.
ALEC passed a resolution from state legislators supporting the embattled Keystone Pipeline XL project. TransCanada Corp., the company building the pipeline, is an ALEC member and was one of the sponsors of an expense-paid trip described as “ALEC academy” for nine ALEC-member state legislators to visit the site of the pipeline, according to Sloan. Some of those lawmakers went home to their states and introduced the resolution backing the pipeline.
Another model law aims to influence the next generation of climate change deniers. The model legislation, which has passed in at least four states, says that science education must call climate change a “controversial theory” and just one theory among many; must not seek to change students‘ opinions; and must not encourage students to be active politically.
ALEC is registered as a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization. Common Cause has sued ALEC alleging that it its non-profit status is a facade for lobbying activity. Lobbyists must register and disclose lobbying activity.
What also makes ALEC’s activities different than other lobbying is how well-funded and well-coordinated it is, Sloan said.
“They have participating corporations like fossil fuel companies drafting legislation that benefits those corporations directly, and then can get that legislation introduced in 50 states within a year,” he said. “It’s part of an overall framework of corporations exerting their will and agenda upon the people.”