ALEC

Wed, 2014-11-12 04:00Ben Jervey
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Despite Tech Exodus from ALEC, eBay Sends Mixed Messages About Membership

Over the course of a single short week in late September, one Silicon Valley tech giant after the next cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a libertarian, free market think tank that actively fights against clean energy and climate-focused policies on the state and local level.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt fired the starting gun on the tech exodus, when he claimed on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show that ALEC was “just literally lying” about climate change, and explained that Google’s membership was “sort of a mistake.”

Google, said Schmidt, “should not be aligned with such people,” and announced that the company would not renew its membership in ALEC. Within a week, Facebook, Yahoo, Uber, and Lyft all followed suit. On Monday, AOL joined the march away from ALEC. (Yelp had allowed its membership to expire months prior, and proudly announced that week that it had severed all ties with ALEC.)

And then there’s eBay.

The online auction house is still a dues-paying member of ALEC, and is sending mixed messages to climate campaigners and the site's users and shareholders about its future with ALEC.

A rep from eBay sent DeSmogBlog an uncredited statement, which emphasizes that “we do not agree with ALEC on other issues, including climate change.” The statement in full:

Tue, 2014-10-28 22:43Chris Rose
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Canadian Corporations Spent Over $15M Lobbying U.S. Government in 2014, Report

canadian corporations, lobbying, US elections

As the mid-term elections in the United States continue to heat up, a new report released Wednesday shows that Canadian corporations have registered at least $15.3 million USD in spending on direct lobbying of the U.S. federal government in the first nine months of 2014.

That includes $2.87 million by Canadian National Railway Company in the face of increasing regulatory attention to the rail transport industry on both sides of the border, said the report — Are Canadian corporations spending to influence the U.S. political process?

Written by The Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), the 13-page report noted that the TransCanada Corporation, well aware that the controversial Keystone pipeline project is up for approval at the federal level, spent $1.07 million on political lobbying from January to September.

The author of the report, Kevin Thomas, SHARE’s Director of Shareholder Engagement, said in a telephone interview that Canadian companies are clearly involved in political spending in the U.S.

The problem is there’s no real requirement for disclosure on either side of the border that can quantify the extent of that spending,” Thomas said.

Thu, 2014-10-02 09:34Ben Jervey
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Disrupt Denial: After Leaving ALEC, Google Still Funding Evil

Last week, one tech giant after the next cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), creating a mass exodus from the anti-government front group that routinely drafts legislation to bolster the fossil fuel industry and inhibit climate action and clean energy development.

While the withdrawal of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and others from ALEC’s vast pool of corporate funders was widely celebrated by climate campaigners, a recent report released by Forecast the Facts and SumOfUS shows how Google – and many others who claim to do good by climate – are still funding climate denial in politics. 

The report, called Disrupt Denial: How big business is funding climate change denial in the 113th Congress, reveals how companies like Google, Ford, Microsoft, UPS, and eBay continue to support Senators and Representatives in the House who deny the very science of climate change.

Take Google. Though the company’s Chairman Eric Schmidt made great waves with his claim on the Diane Rehm show that ALEC are “literally lying” about climate change, and that Google “should not be aligned with such people,” the Disrupt Denial report shows that Google has contributed $699,195 to climate deniers in Congress from 2008 to 2014.

Thu, 2014-09-25 18:02John Mashey
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High-Techs Abandon ALEC, Fossil and Tobacco Wolf In Business Suit

As Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Yelp and other high-tech Silicon Valley companies abandon the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a few facts need more emphasis to understand this wolf in business clothes, bringing “sample bills” to legislatures.

ALEC is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) “public charity,” as per its IRS Form 990s.  Donations to it get tax breaks. Common Cause filed complaints against ALEC in 2012 and 2013, but these take years, as do similar complaints related to Fakery 2: More Funny Finances, Free of Tax.

High-tech companies finally noticed problems with climate change policies at ALEC, unsurprising given the strong influence of fossil energy companies. But companies also were effectively side-by-side with Big Tobacco, whose continued existence requires nicotine addiction of adolescents, which only works by “rewiring” the brain during rapid development that ends by age 25 or usually earlier.

ALEC includes the usual think tanks that attack science and support both industries. Does ALEC have a monopoly on access to power? Can reasonable business people find no representation except through a group that is often anti-science, anti-environment and anti-health?

Thu, 2014-07-31 13:42Steve Horn
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Documents: Cheniere Fuels ALEC’s New Push for Fracked Gas Exports

Today, legislative and lobbyist members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) voted on model legislation promoting both exports of gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and vehicles powered by compressed natural gas (CNG)

Dubbed a “corporate bill mill” by its critics, ALEC is heavily engaged in a state-level effort to attack renewable energy and grease the skids for exports of U.S. oil and gas. Today's bills up for a vote — as conveyed in an ALEC mailer sent out on June 25 by ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force — are titled “Resolution In Support of Expanded Liquefied Natural Gas Exports“ and “Weights and Measures and Standards for Dispensing CNG and LNG Motor Fuels.” 

An exclusive investigation conducted by DeSmogBlog reveals that Cheniere — the first U.S. company to receive a final liquefied natural gas (LNG) export permit by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) — has acted as the lead corporate backer of the LNG exports model resolution. 

Further, Clean Energy Fuels Corporation, owned by energy baron T. Boone Pickens, of Pickens Plan fame, and trade associations it is a member of, served as the main pusher of the CNG model resolution.

ALEC has served as a key vehicle through which the fracking industry has curried favor and pushed for policies favorable to their bottom lines in statehouses nationwide. Now ALEC and its corporate backers have upped the ante, pushing policies that will lock in downstream demand for fracked gas for years to come. 

With Cheniere becoming an ALEC dues-paying member in May 2013 and with America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) — the fracking industry's tour de force — crowned an ALEC member in August 2013, it looks like many more fracking-friendly model bills could arise out of ALEC in the months and years ahead.

Fri, 2014-06-20 10:25Steve Horn
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Heather Zichal, Former Obama Energy Aide, Named to Board of Fracked Gas Exports Giant Cheniere

Heather Zichal, former Obama White House Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, may soon walk out of the government-industry revolving door to become a member of the board of directors for fracked gas exports giant Cheniere, who nominated her to serve on the board. 

The announcement, made through Cheniere's U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Form 8-K and its Schedule 14A, comes just as a major class-action lawsuit was filed against the board of the company by stockholders.

In reaction to the lawsuit, Cheniere has delayed its annual meeting. At that meeting, the company's stockholders will vote on the Zichal nomination.

The class-action lawsuit was filed by plaintiff and stockholder James B. Jones, who alleges the board gave stock awards to CEO Charif Souki in defiance of both a stockholders' vote and the company's by-laws. 

Souki — a central character in Gregory Zuckerman's book “The Frackers“ — became the highest paid CEO in the U.S. as a result of the maneuver, raking in $142 million in 2013, $133 million of which came from stock awards.

Cheniere CEO Charif Souki; Photo Credit: Getty Images

Zichal was nominated to join Cheniere's audit committee of the board, and will be paid $180,000 per year for the gig if elected.

Among the audit committee duties: “Prepare and review the audit committee report for inclusion in the proxy statement for the company's annual meeting of stockholders,” which is now set for September 11 after the push-back following the filing of the stockholder class-action lawsuit.

“The audit committee’s responsibility is oversight, and it recognizes that the company’s management is responsible for preparing the company’s financial statements and complying with applicable laws and regulations,” Cheniere's audit committee charter further explains.

Thu, 2014-05-22 08:42Farron Cousins
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New Report Exposes Fossil Fuel Front Groups Behind Attacks on Renewables

Fossil fuel exploitation in the United States has reached a fevered pitch.  Oil production is at a near-record high, and fracking activities have made the U.S. the number one producer of natural gas.  All of this comes at a cost.  In 2013, the oil industry averaged 20 oil spills per day, destroying countless swaths of the environment and leaving toxic chemicals for nearby residents to deal with.  Meanwhile, oil and gas train derailments have totaled at least 11 in the last 11 months. 

During this period of dirty energy dominance, investments in renewable energy continued to fall by 14% in 2013.  The United States is averaging 20 oil spills per day, 1 dirty energy transport train derailment and explosion per month, and yet we’re still doubling down on fossil fuels. 

This all seems fairly shocking, until you peel back the curtain on who is behind the efforts to keep renewable energy solutions out of the picture, which is exactly what a new report has done.  The Energy and Policy Institute (EPI) has released a report detailing not only the fossil fuel front groups behind the attacks on clean energy, but also how they are able to use their money and political muscle to prevent a viable market for clean energy, limiting energy choices for consumers.

From the report, Attacks on Renewable Energy Standards and Net Metering Policies By Fossil Fuel Interests & Front Groups 2013-2014:

The fossil fuel lobby aggressively uses lobbying and propaganda to achieve their goals. Self-identified “free market think tanks” are among the most effective advocates for the fossil fuel industry to lobby for policy changes. Dozens of these so-called free market organizations, a majority of which are members of the State Policy Network (SPN), worked to influence state level energy policies and attack the clean energy industry…

Fossil fuel-funded front groups operate in multiple areas to influence the policy-making process in their attempts to eliminate clean energy policies. First, groups like the Beacon Hill Institute provide flawed reports or analysis claiming clean energy policies have negative impacts. Next, allied front groups or “think tanks” use the flawed data in testimony, opinion columns, and in the media. Then, front groups, like Americans for Prosperity, spread disinformation through their grassroots networks, in postcards mailed to the public, and in television ads attacking the clean energy policy. Finally, lobbyists from front groups, utilities, and other fossil fuel companies use their influence from campaign contributions and meetings with decision makers to push for anti-clean energy efforts.

In addition to listing the individual groups that are fighting against clean energy, EPI also provides a chart showing which groups are most active in energy-producing states, and how their attacks on renewable energy have derailed (or inspired) legislation in each state.  Proposals have ranged from charging citizens an extra $50 - $100 a month if they install solar panels, to smear campaigns geared towards convincing the public that installing clean energy technology in their homes is an investment that will never pay off for consumers.

The report lists the usual suspects as the main culprits:  Heartland Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity, and the State Policy Network.  The money behind these groups is from sources like the Koch brothers, Exxon, and many other dirty energy heavy hitters.

Wed, 2014-02-19 10:27Steve Horn
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ALEC's Fracking Chemical Disclosure Bill Moving Through Florida Legislature

The American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) model bill for disclosure of chemicals injected into the ground during the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process is back for a sequel in the Sunshine State legislature. 

ALEC's model bill was proposed by ExxonMobil at its December 2011 meeting and is modeled after a bill that passed in Texas' legislature in spring 2011, as revealed in an April 2012 New York Times investigative piece. ALEC critics refer to the pro-business organization as a “corporate bill mill” lending corporate lobbyists a “voice and a vote” on model legislation often becoming state law.

The bill currently up for debate at the subcommittee level in the Florida House of Representatives was originally proposed a year ago (as HB 743) in February 2013 and passed in a 92-19 vote, but never received a Senate vote. This time around the block (like last time except for the bill number), Florida's proposed legislation is titled the Fracturing Chemical Usage Disclosure Act (HB 71), introduced by Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues. It is attached to a key companion bill: Public Records/Fracturing Chemical Usage Disclosure Act (HB 157).

HB 71 passed on a party-line 8-4 vote in the Florida House's Agriculture and Environment Subcommittee on January 14, as did HB 157. The next hurdle the bills have to clear: HB 71 awaits a hearing in the Agriculture and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee and HB 157 awaits one in the Government Operations Subcommittee.

Taken together, the two bills are clones of ALEC's ExxonMobil-endorsed Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act. That model — like HB 71 — creates a centralized database for fracking chemical fluid disclosure. There's a kicker, though. Actually, two.

First kicker: the industry-created and industry-owned disclosure database itself — FracFocus — has been deemed a failure by multiple legislators and by an April 2013 Harvard University Law School studySecond kicker: ALEC's model bill, like HB 157, has a trade secrets exemption for chemicals deemed proprietary. 

Thu, 2014-02-13 19:21Brendan DeMelle
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Polluter Harmony Video Spoofs Duke Energy and ALEC

Greenpeace USA's Polluter Harmony project released another great spoof video this week as part of it “world's dirtiest dating service” series mocking polluters and bought-off politicians.  Watch: 

Thu, 2014-01-30 05:00Russell Blinch
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Two Big Reasons Why Solar Power is Under Siege

Forget the U.S. war on coal, that’s not going so well for the team in the charcoal jerseys. The real shooting war has opened up against renewable energy, particularly solar, because of its potentially disruptive nature to vested interests.

Solar power is the go-to source for new generating capacity in the U.S. Some 930 megawatts of photovoltaic solar power was installed in the third quarter of 2013, a jump of 35 percent over last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. And 2013 will go down as the year the United States surpassed uber leader Germany in new solar installations.

And the momentum shows no signs of slowing this year because home owners and companies are rapidly embracing the idea of harnessing power from the sun rather than from expensive and increasingly brittle power grids.

Solar panels are the new granite countertops in home building – an amenity that’s becoming a standard in residential housing, according to Bloomberg in a report.  At least six of the 10 largest American homebuilders include panels in new housing construction today.

And what is a movement without stock market darlings? Companies such as Elon Musk’s SolarCity and SunEdison, to name just two, are often hot stocks on a daily basis.

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