The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) suffered a big defeat in North Carolina today when a bipartisan group of legislators killed a bill to repeal the state's Renewable Portfolio Standards, which require utilities provide a certain percentage of energy from renewable sources. ALEC typically operates in the dark but has expressed rare public support for the North Carolina effort.
North Carolina was the first state in the Southeast to pass renewable energy standards, but with the Senate, Assembly, and Governor's offices under Republican control for the first time in more than 100 years, ALEC and its allies made a concerted effort to make the state the first to repeal those standards using the ALEC "model" Electricity Freedom Act.
On April 19, ALEC's Energy & Environment Task Force Director Todd Wynn published a blog post on ALEC's "American Legislator" website criticizing North Carolina's renewable standards as an attack on "freedom." Earlier in April the Heartland Institute, which brought the Electricity Freedom Act to ALEC, promoted North Carolina's repeal effort on its website and penned an op-ed in the Charlotte Observer. The North Carolina-based John Locke Foundation released a discredited study, along with the Beacon Hill Institute, purporting to show the impact of renewable standards on the state. All of the groups receive funding from fossil fuel-connected interests like the Kochs, and are associated with the State Policy Network, an umbrella group of right-wing organizations. Even Grover Norquist, whose Americans for Tax Reform has received significant funding from fossil fuel interests, jumped into the fray and tried to convince North Carolina legislators to pass a repeal bill.
Those efforts failed.
It was defeated on a bipartisan 18-13 vote.
The defeat might be chalked up to basic economics. The state's Renewable Portfolio Standards have helped generate $3.7 billion in economic activity in 2012 and contributed to the current 15,200 clean energy jobs in North Carolina, according to the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, all while reducing pollution. And the bill is about more than just wind and solar. Prestage Farms, a turkey and pork processor, has plans to build an innovative waste-to-energy plant that produces energy while reducing waste.
Rep. Hager or other ALEC North Carolina members may still try other methods to limit renewable standards before the end of the session, and other pieces of the ALEC agenda will likely find success in the GOP-controlled legislature. But Wednesday's vote is nonetheless a defeat for an ALEC priority issue.
Last week, Kansas -- the home of Koch Industries -- defeated a similar renewable energy repeal bill, likely because the renewable industry is also a major job creator in the state. Legislation that resembles the ALEC Electricity Freedom Act is currently under consideration in Ohio. It remains to be seen whether lawmakers in that state will side with ALEC and fossil fuel interests or jobs and clean energy. Stay tuned.