Toronto Star Details ALEC Efforts to Derail Climate Change Policy

The Toronto Star has published an in-depth report detailing the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC's) "plans to undo environmental legislation," specifically how it "works with lobbyists and legislators to derail climate change policies."

The report, by the Star's environmental report Mike De Souza, refers to internal documents from ALEC's annual meeting July 30 through August 1 in Dallas that were leaked to the Center for Media and Democracy/Progressive Inc. (CMD). The documents show that, at several session of the meeting, sponsors cast doubt on the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change. At others, attendees put forward "model" bills to allow fossil fuel companies more free rein while hampering the development of alternative forms of energy.

Documents Reveal CFACT Directing Legislators to Deny Climate Change

One workshop mentioned by the Star report "had the goal of teaching politicians 'how to think and talk about climate and energy issues' and provided them with guidance for fighting environmental policies and regulations." This workshop, sponsored and led by the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) -- a libertarian policy and lobbying group that advocates against environmental regulation -- gave legislators detailed talking points denying climate change, supporting fracking on public lands, and pushing to end renewable energy standards, among other things.

You can see CFACT's handouts intended for state legislators, which were obtained by CMD, here and here.

Documents Reveal Heartland Discouraging Renewable Energy Development

Another ALEC session "featured several proposals to discourage development of renewable energy, to stop new American rules to reduce pollution from coal power plants, as well as a 'model resolution' in support of Keystone XL, which is seeking approval from the Obama administration," according to the Star. "According to a conference agenda, obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, this presentation was given by Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based conservative think tank.... Slides from the presentation show that it also challenged established scientific evidence on climate change, while proposing to dismantle the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency."

You can see Bast's presentation, which was obtained by CMD, here.

Exxon and Energy Companies Funding ALEC

State elected officials go to ALEC conferences, but ALEC does not make public the full list of attendees that legislators meet with there, nor who funds the meetings. A large number of multinational corporations send lobbyists to the meetings, however, as CMD's research has shown.

ALEC did confirm that energy companies Chevron, Devon, Exxon Mobil, and TransCanada were among those who funded the annual meeting. But a TransCanada spokesperson tried to distance the company from some of ALEC's policies:

"Alberta-based TransCanada, which sponsored an 'Ice Cream Social' event at the ALEC meetings in each of the past two years, downplayed its role.

"'I cannot honestly speak to whether or not someone who was a consultant for our company was at the event -- because we are not their only client -- but no one was directed to be at this event to present views on behalf of TransCanada,' said TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard. 'I can't be any clearer than that.'

"Howard, who said the company's contributions to ALEC weren’t considered to be charitable donations, said the sponsorship doesn't mean TransCanada agrees with the organization's policies."

A spokesman for ExxonMobil, which is a member of ALEC's "Private Enterprise Advisory Council," claimed that the company wasn't an ALEC member:

"A spokesman for ExxonMobil told the Star the company didn't want to comment about its sponsorship of ALEC, saying that it wasn't a member of the organization. ALEC's website lists representatives from 17 organizations on its 'private enterprise advisory council' including ExxonMobil, AT&T, Pfizer, as well as Peabody Energy, the largest private-sector coal company in the world.

"ALEC declined to explain the role of this 'advisory council.'"

The claim that Exxon is not an ALEC member is a particularly odd, since Exxon has been a stalwart ALEC defender, and ALEC updated its corporate advisory council list just two weeks before the annual meeting, sponsored by Exxon. Exxon has given ALEC at least $1.6 million between 1998 and 2012, according to Greenpeace's ExxonSecrets project.

ALEC "Big Reason" U.S. "Far Behind" in Tackling Climate Change

ALEC's PR firm, Edelman -- the biggest in the world -- recently pledged that it does not "accept clients that seek to deny climate change." But Edelman CEO Richard Edelman has refused to answer whether or not the firm still works for ALEC, which is working hard to block any action at the federal or state level to address the problem, as CMD has reported.

CMD director of research Nick Surgey told the Star, "ALEC is a big reason the U.S. is so far behind in taking significant action to tackle climate change.... For more than forty years, ALEC has helped lobbyists from some of the biggest polluters on the planet meet privately with U.S. lawmakers to discuss and model legislation."

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