By Sara Jerving on November 27, 2012

An effort to stomp out state renewable energy mandates across the country has roots in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). As reported by The Washington Post, the Heartland Institute wrote the bill, had it passed through ALEC, and is now targeting the 29 states and the District of Columbia, which have passed renewable energy requirements in some form.

Renewable energy not only produces cleaner energy, it grows the local job base and allows state's to diversify their supply and not be held hostage to the fossil fuel industry. Green energy jobs are a robust sector of the economy employing some 175,000 Americans. But some of ALEC's most powerful members are deeply rooted in the "drill, frack, burn" method of energy supply. ALEC is a corporate bill mill that puts corporate lobbyists and state legislators together behind closed doors to vote on cookie-cutter legislation that is then introduced in statehouses across the nation. ALEC's membership includes fossil fuel companies, utility companies, and energy trade groups in the United States including Chevron, BP, Peabody Energy, Duke Energy, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, and only a handful of green energy firms.

For the Heartland Institute, the corporate purse strings lead back to ALEC private sector board members Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries, whose massive holdings include oil refineries. All three are ALEC private sector members.

Heartland Goes to Bat For Fossil Fuels, Again and Again

The Electricity Freedom Act was approved by ALEC in July 2012 in its Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force and would repeal standards in states that require that utilities get a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.

As CMD has reported, the Heartland Institute has been on an aggressive campaign to deny that fossil fuels pose a threat to our environment, economy and the lives of people around the world. It was publicly shamed and lost a sizable chunk of its funding when it paid for billboards comparing those concerned about climate change to "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski, serial killer Charles Manson, and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. But that didn't deter Heartland.

Heartland's mission is not a solo one -- the group is funded by some of the nation's biggest polluters. Heartland received $736,500 from Exxon Mobil between 1998 and 2006, according to its spokesman, Jim Lakely, and $25,000 in 2011 from foundations affiliated with the oil billionaire Koch brothers. While The Washington Post reported Lakely saying that the Koch donation was "earmarked for our work on health care policy, not energy or environment policy," documents leaked from Heartland in February contain a "Climate Strategy" memo which notes the Koch donation under a subhead on "climate project fundraising." Heartland contests the veracity of the memo.

ALEC Cites Koch and ALEC-Linked Study to Back Claims on Renewables

To back the ALEC bill's claims that renewable energy is "a tax on consumers," ALEC points to an economic analysis co-published by Suffolk University's Beacon Hill Institute and the State Policy Network (SPN). But this analysis was hardly independent. Both groups have received donations from foundations funded by the Koch brothers. SPN was a "Chairman" level sponsor of ALEC's 2011 Annual Conference and ALEC is an Associate Member of SPN.

The one-two punch of an industry backed bill plus an industry backed study is a classic one. "You push the legislation to state legislators and then you fund reports to support the argument and convince state lawmakers," Gabe Elsner, co-director of the public watchdog group Checks and Balances Project told the Washington Post, "and all without any transparency or disclosure about the sources of this funding."


This piece has been updated to reflect that the Heartland Institute contests the veracity of the "Climate Strategy" memo.

Comments

Sara,

That "Climate Strategy Memo" is a fake. It was not produced by anyone at or affiliated with The Heartland Institute. Even many on the left have given up that ghost long ago. Go to the link below, then click around the site some.

http://fakegate.org/bast-on-forged-memo/

And what does this even mean?: "For the Heartland Institute, the corporate purse strings lead back to ALEC private sector board members Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries, whose massive holdings include oil refineries. All three are ALEC private sector members."

Lead back where? Heartland hasn't received a cent from ExxonMobile in going on seven years, and got a tiny gift from Koch for education policy, its first gift in a decade. How is that Heartland benefiting from their "corporate purse strings"? I don't get it ... other than as a sloppy attempt to include Heartland in some nefarious, corporate-funded conspiracy. You might want to write and act less paranoid. It'll be good for your health.

In 2011 Heartland received 46 percent of its income from foundations, 29 percent from corporations, and 22 percent from individuals. And no corporate donor gave more than 5 percent of Heartland's annual budget. That's the truth, whether it fits your narrative, or not.

Jim Lakely
Director of Communications
The Heartland Institute
Chicago, IL

Jim,
Whatever. Your dubious organization does not advocate renewable energy. No one is fooled.

Dear Mr. Lakely,

Thank you for being in touch; we will note the memo is contested.

Mr. Lakely,

I challenge you to divulge the names of Heartland's donors and the amounts they donated. I have no qualms about making my donations to CMD and similar organizations public. I would have to check my records, but I believe I've given them about $250 over the past few years and intend to keep doing so. A little transparency might buy you some of the credibility you seem to be looking for.

This article is complete misleading and specious. The focus is not on fossil fuels, but on allowing encouraging the development of affordable and renewable energy in an open market. Please be honest with the discussion.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the State of {insert state} does not wish to discourage the marketing of “green” power and “green” pricing such that willing buyers and sellers of renewable energy sources are free to negotiate the terms and conditions of such sales, and no technology or class of technologies is given an unfair competitive advantage; and
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; and
BE IT THEREFORE ENACTED, that the State of {insert state} repeals the renewable energy mandate and as such, no electric distribution utilities and electric services companies will be forced to procure renewable energy resources as defined by the State of {insert state}’s renewable energy mandate.

Dear Rep. Ulery:

With all due respect, it is your description that is misleading and specious.

The focus of the bill is plainly on repealing state commitments to invest in and rely on renewable energy to meet a portion of the energy needs of a state's citizens. The obvious beneficiary of "repeal[ing] the renewable energy mandate" is the fossil fuel industry, which has been given numerous "competitive advantages" through government subsidies over many years.

In publicly available documents, you have been identified as a State Chairman for ALEC for New Hampshire.

Under ALEC's public bylaws, you have a "duty" to advance ALEC's legislative agenda in your home state.

Your public record in the statehouse demonstrates that you have done so repeatedly, on numerous measures that hurt the rights of Granite state citizens and advance the agenda of ALEC's private sector members.

You have also attended ALEC meetings at taxpayer expense, meetings where such bills are crafted and promoted to be introduced and made into law.

It is thus not surprising to see that you are attempting to defend this particular ALEC bill.

If your opposition to "unfair competitive advantages" were a matter of principle, you would be on record supporting a repeal of the $4 billion dollars in subsidies to the oil industry, an industry whose top three U.S. companies had a combined profit of over $80 billion last year alone.

A public records check reveals your silence on that matter.

Thank you, however, for sharing your claim with us.

Lisa Graves

Excellent retort, Lisa.

Dear ALEC:

Hands off New Hampshire!

According to this op-ed in today's Concord [NH] Monitor --

http://www.concordmonitor.com/home/3075332-95/hampshire-million-plants-power

-- New Hampshire's renewable energy mandate has already brought the state a huge return on investment:

This spring, in preparing for the debate on Senate Bill 218, which modified the RPS law, utility representatives and I [the op-ed writer] found that New Hampshire and its communities received $111.1 million in direct benefits –- taxes and economic activity -– from its renewable energy projects in 2010."

The op-ed goes on to detail the direct benefits and much more in indirect benefits.

I believe these tangible benefits to New Hampshire are well worth legally mandating, as opposed to ALEC's nebulous benefits of free-market ideology to "{insert state here}."

I have a friend that is a member of ALEC. He tells me what goes on, all the meeting are open to anyone. He gets harrased by people that have no clue what they actualy do and he offers them to come listen. Once they do they get board and wander off, certanly no longer feeling it's something to protest. You should go to one of the meetings. Then you can STFU and go after real issues, like the 2012 NDAA.

Your friend is lying to you, Mahhn.

We know for 100% certainty that the ALEC meetings are not "open to anyone" (meaning everyone), and in fact ALEC's task force meetings where state legislators vote as equals with corporate lobbyists and special interest groups are closed to the press and to the public. And, we have documented how reporters have been excluded from attending other portions of ALEC meetings, as have others:

http://www.prwatch.org/news/2012/01/11237/alec-politician-claims-alec-meetings-are-open-public-really

So, you really ought to re-examine the false claims of your buddy.

And, for your information, we have submitted a brief challenging the NDAA and have another challenge underway.

Lisa

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Bill Moyers presents "United States of ALEC," a report on the most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of -- ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.