The American Legislative Exchange Council has descended upon D.C. for its annual policy summit, and the corporate lobbying group has a lot of anti-environmental plans in the works. Its stretch goal: abolishing the EPA altogether. But according to documents reviewed by the group's opponents, it'll be content to block the agency's pro-climate regulations at every turn.
In August, Microsoft announced that it'd be severing ties with ALEC, citing its opposition to renewable energy projects; in September, Google chairman Eric Schmidt said his company would be leaving as well, in part because ALEC is "just literally lying" about climate change (the group tried, and totally failed, to reform its stance). But despite the tech exodus that followed -- Facebook, Yahoo and Yelp are no longer ALEC-affiliated -- the group is sure to be buoyed by the favorable results of the midterm elections, Nick Surgey, of the Center for Media and Democracy, told reporters during a press call Wednesday.
And according to Aliya Haq, the climate change special projects director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, it "will actually be escalating its attacks on environmental safeguards."
The "most extreme" proposal getting attention at this week's conference, according to the NRDC, is a plan to have Congress disband the EPA, slash funding for environmental protections by 75 percent and replace the federal agency with a group of 300 state agency employees -- even though the entire point of having the EPA is because pollution extends beyond state boundaries.
But while that's something of a long shot, ALEC has plenty of other strategies for undermining the EPA's current regulations, including its proposed rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants and its recently announced plan to limit smog-causing ozone. They'll attempt to do so using model policies, to be finalized at the conference, that states can adapt to make implementing the rules as difficult as possible. For example, while state environmental agencies are usually tasked with implementing Clean Air Act standards, an ALEC bill would require legislators to vote to approve the state's plan -- an unprecedented measure that, according to the NRDC, "would turn industry-influenced legislators into regulators, interfere with state processes and cause excessive delays."
"All this goes to show that ALEC only represents dirty energy," Haq said. "ALEC is not working for the millions of people who would save money on their electric bills through [the Clean Power Plan], they're not working for the hundreds of thousands of new clean energy jobs that would emerge from these plans -- ALEC's ultimate goal here is to block any action on climate change."
And as long as it's operating as a front group for the fossil fuel industry, opponents add, that's unlikely to change. Instead, they're hoping that increased public scrutiny will drive more corporations to cut ties with the group, and that politicians will be aware of the true motives behind bills that arrive on their desks. Tuesday more than 100 left-leaning and environmental groups signed a letter to state legislators urging them to "publicly reject ALEC’s efforts to shape (or misshape) state legislation."