Legislators in four states have introduced bills in recent weeks supporting the controversial TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, with language that appears to have been lifted directly from a "model" American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bill and from TransCanada's own public relations talking points.
Some of the first bills proposed in Missouri, Mississippi, Michigan and Minnesota in 2013 have been resolutions calling on the president and Congress to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which the Obama administration delayed last year in response to a wave of protest and civil disobedience. Environmentalists oppose the pipeline because extracting oil from Canadian tar sands would unlock huge amounts of carbon, increasing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Rallies are planned for this weekend to hold President Obama to his promise to fight climate change by urging him to not approve Keystone XL's pipeline application.
Missouri Resolution Tracks ALEC Model
The Missouri resolution is nearly identical to an ALEC "model" resolution approved at the December 2011 ALEC meeting. TransCanada had been a member of the ALEC Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force in 2010 (along with oil companies like BP and Exxon Mobil). In states like Ohio and South Dakota, the corporation paid into the state "scholarship" fund that pays for legislators' flights and hotel rooms to ALEC meetings. The ALEC resolution has been passed in a handful of states.
WHEREAS, the United States relies - and will continue to rely for many years - on gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, as well as renewable and alternative sources of energy;
The Missouri bill was proposed by Rep. Caleb Rowden (R), a newly-elected politician who has been in office for less than two months. It is not known whether Rowden has already become an ALEC member, but he may have been assigned the legislation by a more senior ALEC member legislator -- an increasingly common way of hiding ALEC's fingerprints. Rowden, who before becoming a legislator was a Christian rocker, certainly did not come up with this legislation on his own.
Though the Keystone XL approval will happen on the federal level, the corporate interests that stand to benefit from the pipeline have lobbied extensively to curry favor in the states, which can lend the appearance of grassroots support and put pressure on federal officials.
ALEC resolutions have been one avenue for TransCanada and the oil industry to advance these goals. As ALEC was approving its Keystone XL resolution in December 2011, that month's "Inside ALEC" Magazine featured an article titled "Keystone XL -- A Critical Project for America," written by Michael Whatley of the oil industry front group Consumer Energy Alliance. The CEA is an "astroturf" group parading as a grassroots organization that was started with funding from big energy producers like BP and ExxonMobil (both of which are ALEC members). CEA's Board of Advisors has included Tom Moskitis, top lobbyist for the natural gas trade group American Gas Association and the corporate co-chair of the ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force.
Just weeks after ALEC adopted its Keystone XL Resolution in early 2012, President Obama denied TransCanada's application for the pipeline. ALEC promptly issued a press release announcing its "disappointment" with Obama's decision, but it did render the resolution slightly outdated. Missouri's legislation closely tracks the ALEC model but deviates in some areas because of the shifting landscape surrounding the pipeline.
MI, MN, MS Bills Identical to One Another and TransCanada Talking Points
Legislators in Mississippi, Minnesota, and Michigan also introduced legislation in recent weeks supporting the Keystone XL pipeline. The thrust of the resolutions are largely the same as the ALEC model, but the language deviates from the ALEC bill approved in December 2012. However, each state's proposed resolution is identical to the other states -- which certainly seems more than coincidence.
It is not known whether ALEC has been pushing an updated version of ALEC model legislation, but the language in these state resolutions can be traced back directly to TransCanada, the corporation that has been pushing the pipeline for years. Entire paragraphs from the Mississippi, Minnesota, and Michigan resolutions are nearly identical to public relations spin produced by TransCanada and posted as a "backgrounder" on its website. Check out these paragraphs in the Mississippi, Minnesota, and Michigan legislation, and compare the language from TransCanada's "backgrounder:"
This identical language cannot be a coincidence. But it is further proof that some legislators are doing the bidding of corporate interests rather than the people that elected them.
This well-funded effort to influence state and federal legislators stands in sharp contrast with the growing grassroots environmental movement opposed the pipeline. With tens of thousands of anti-pipeline activists expected in Washington DC this weekend, it remains to be seen whether federal officials reviewing the pipeline will pay closer attention to the industry's influence-peddling or the people on the streets.