ALEC

Why the Koch Network Took Credit for Dakota Access, Keystone XL, and REINS Act

Koch brothers

A leaked memorandum published by The Intercept and Documented Investigations shows that a Koch Industries' donors network, known as the Seminar Network, has taken credit for Donald Trump approving the permits for both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines during the first months of his presidency. The memo also applauded efforts by the Koch network's Americans for Prosperity (AFP) chapter in Wisconsin to pass a deregulatory measure there known as the REINS Act. The Seminar Network, which meets secretly twice a year, is made up of donors who give at least $100,000 toward Koch-led political and philanthropic efforts.

Koch Industries has a business interest in both pipelines, though their approval has not been something its funded network has widely discussed. Quietly, though, Koch has advocated for the pair of pipelines in regulatory hearings in both Iowa for Dakota Access — as previously reported by DeSmog — as well as in Canada, as reported in 2012 by InsideClimate News.

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Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests

A Lakota man locked himself to construction equipment building the Dakota Access pipeline

On the heels of Iowa and Ohio, Wyoming has become the third state to introduce a bill criminalizing the type of activities undertaken by past oil and gas pipeline protesters. 

One of the Wyoming bill's co-sponsors even says it was inspired by the protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against the Dakota Access pipeline, and a sheriff involved in policing those protests testified in support of the bill at a recent hearing. Wyoming's bill is essentially a copy-paste version of template legislation produced by the conservative, corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

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As Trump Unfurls Infrastructure Plan, Iowa Bill Seeks to Criminalize Pipeline Protests

People rally at Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access pipeline in December 2016

The Iowa Senate has advanced a bill which critics say could lead to the criminalization of pipeline protests, which are being cast as “terrorist activities.” Dakota Access pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners and other companies have lobbied for the bill, Senate Study Bill 3062, which opens up the possibility of prison time and a hefty fine for those who commit “sabotage” of critical infrastructure, such as oil and gas pipelines.

This bill, carrying a criminal punishment of up to 25 years in prison and $100,000 in fines, resembles the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, a “model” bill recently passed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). That ALEC bill, intended as a template for state and federal legislation, was based on Oklahoma's HB 1123, which calls for citizens to receive a felony sentencing, $100,000 fine, and/or 10 years in prison if their actions “willfully damage, destroy, vandalize, deface, or tamper with equipment in a critical infrastructure facility.”

According to disclosure records, corporations lobbying for the Iowa bill include not only Energy Transfer Partners, but also Koch Industries, the American Petroleum Institute, Valero Energy, Magellan Midstream, and others. The Iowa State Police Association has also come out in support of the bill, while the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa is against it. The bill has passed out of subcommittee and next goes in front of the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Anti-Regulation Law, Favored by Kochs, Used to Sue Wisconsin Education Agency

Caricature of Koch brothers and Gov. Scott Walker

The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILLhas sued Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers for what it alleges was a state education agency's violation of an anti-regulatory law — long pushed by the petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers — known as the REINS Act.

Wisconsin's version of REINS, or Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny, is a piece of legislation heavily lobbied and advocated in favor of for over half a decade by Americans for Prosperity, a policy and electioneering advocacy front group founded and funded by the Koch Family Foundations and Koch Industries. The bill, which has a federal equivalent in Congress, has long been seen as the crown jewel of the Koch network. It essentially gives legislative bodies full veto power over regulations, including proposed environmental safeguards, which have been proposed by executive agencies — even when those regulations are mandated by laws legislatures have passed.

WILL's November 20 lawsuit, if successful, would be the first time the REINS Act is used to halt a proposed regulation. 

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ALEC, Corporate-Funded Bill Mill, Considers Model State Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protesters

Protesters march with a banner against the Dakota Access pipeline

At its recent States & Nation Policy Summit, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that connects state legislators with corporations and creates templates for state legislation, voted on a model bill calling for the crack down and potential criminalization of those protesting U.S. oil and gas pipeline infrastructure.

Dubbed the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, the model legislation states in its preamble that it draws inspiration from two bills passed in the Oklahoma Legislature in 2017. Those bills, House Bill 1123 and House Bill 2128, offered both criminal and civil penalties which would apply to protests happening at pipeline sites. Critics viewed these bills as an outgrowth of the heavy-handed law enforcement reaction to protests of the Dakota Access pipeline.

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Former Head of Energy, Environment at ALEC, Todd Wynn, Hired by Trump Interior Department

Todd Wynn

Todd Wynn, former Director of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)'s Energy Environmental and Agriculture Task Force, was recently hired by President Donald Trump to work as a senior-ranking official in the U.S. Department of the Interior. 

DeSmog discovered the hire via LinkedIn, and Wynn says on his profile page that he began at Interior in October.

Wynn worked at ALEC from 2011 to 2013 and then became Director of External Affairs for Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a trade association representing electric utility companies nationwide. Prior to his position at ALEC, Wynn served as Vice President of the Cascade Policy Institute, a part of the State Policy Network (SPN), a national chain of state-level conservative and corporate-funded think-tanks which was started as an ALEC offshoot.

ALEC's critics have described the organization, a national consortium of mostly Republican Party state legislators and corporate lobbyists, as a “corporate bill mill.” That's because its lobbyist members convene several times a year with legislators to produce what it calls “model bills” which have ended up as actual legislation thousands of times since the organization's founding in 1973.

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Emails Show Iraq War PR Alums Led Attempt to Discredit Dakota Access Protesters

militarized police presence lined up in North Dakota against Dakota Access pipeline protesters

By Steve Horn and Curtis Waltman, MuckRock

Behind the scenes, as law enforcement officials tried to stem protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, alumni from the George W. Bush White House were leading a crisis communications effort to discredit pipeline protesters.

Emails show that the firms Delve and Off the Record Strategies, apparently working on contract with the National Sheriffs’ Association, worked in secret on talking points, media outreach, and communications training for law enforcement dealing with Dakota Access opponents mobilized at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. This revelation comes from documents obtained via an open records request from the Laramie County Sheriff's Department in Wyoming.

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Trump Admin Proposes 70% Cut To Renewable Energy and Efficiency Programs at Energy Dept

Butcher knife on cutting board with dollar bill cut in half

According to Axios.com, the Trump Administration is proposing a 70 percent reduction in funding for the Department of Energy’s renewable and energy efficiency programs, a move that could severely dampen the recent surge in renewable energy production and job growth.

As Axios points out, a cut this steep will have trouble making its way through Congress, but it sets the bar incredibly low from a negotiation standpoint, meaning that the overall funding for the department will still fall significantly from previous years. Funding for the renewable energy programs dropped from $478 million in 2015 to $451 million in 2016, while energy efficiency programs increased from $721 million to $762 million in the same period.

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Mapping EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt's Many Fossil Fuel Ties

Map of Scott Pruitt's connections to fossil fuel interests

On Thursday, January 12, Senate Democrats raised another set of conflict of interest concerns about Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has been nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In a letter to the Office of Government Ethics, members of the Senate's environment panel requested more background on Pruitt's dealings with the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which Pruitt led for two years while coordinating with other state AGs to combat the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.

“During his tenure as Attorney General of Oklahoma, Mr. Pruitt has blurred the distinction between official and political actions, often at the behest of corporations he will regulate if confirmed to lead EPA,” the letter said. “Public reporting based on documents produced by Freedom of Infomation Act requests illustrate how Mr. Pruitt and members of his staff have worked closely with fossil fuel lobbyists to craft his office's official positions.”

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