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Leaked Calls Reveal ALEC’s Secret Plan to Thwart Biden on Climate

Posted: Sun Apr 18, 2021 10:39 am
by TrueTexan
Republican efforts to stall President Joe Biden’s climate agenda are slowly beginning to take shape. In March, a coalition of 12 Republican state attorneys general filed a lawsuit challenging Biden’s executive order creating a working group to establish a metric for the “social cost of carbon.” Led by Missouri’s attorney general, Eric Schmitt, the lawsuit charges that the order is an “enormous expansion of federal regulatory power” and that such cost calculations are “inherently speculative, policy-laden, and indeterminate” and should instead be undertaken by Congress.

In a similar vein, 21 Republican-controlled states, led by Texas and Montana, have sued the Biden administration over its decision to revoke a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, calling it an unconstitutional overuse of executive power that would diminish the states’ economies and tax revenue. Both lawsuits are pending in federal courts. Separately, in response to Biden’s alleged “hostility to the energy industry,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order in January directing state agencies to “use all lawful powers” to challenge federal policies that disadvantage oil and gas operators. (Texas state agencies with the ability to loosen environmental regulations on the oil and gas industry largely do not appear to have changed policies in response to the order.)

Ultimately, many of these actions may amount to little more than grandstanding, and it’s difficult to discern whether or not a broad, deliberate strategy is at work. But behind the scenes, call records obtained by Grist show that the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, has formed a new working group to build upon these efforts.

“They want to keep making profit and imperil the climate stability and the health of people all across the United States. That’s how they make money.”
On a one-hour call with ALEC members in late February, former Utah state representative Ken Ivory claimed that each directive in the president’s January executive order on climate action unduly entrenched federal power and stripped authority from the states. He surfaced fears that Biden will declare a national “climate emergency” that “unlocks more than 130 unilateral executive actions.” (It’s unclear how Ivory, who did not respond to Grist’s request for comment, arrived at that figure.) Ivory also faulted the Democratic administration for promoting climate-focused policies within federal agencies through executive orders, rather than routing all proposals through Congress.

“We’re seeing something that they’re identifying as a new age in climate federalism,” Ivory said.

The call was the first of two that have taken place so far as part of ALEC’s new Functional Federalism Working Group, which exists separately from a longstanding ALEC task force on federalism and international relations. The new group hasn’t been publicized on the ALEC website beyond two brief mentions in blog posts penned by Ivory. Its name suggests that the group is meant to redress what Ivory described as an imbalance of power between Biden’s presidency and state governments, a majority of which are dominated by conservatives.

“What’s the reasoning or the exact strategy for them in creating this secretive working group, we still don’t know,” said David Armiak, a research director with the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit government watchdog group that tracks ALEC’s initiatives and provided Grist with a verbatim record of the two recent calls. “Fossil fuel and pharmaceutical companies do still play leadership roles and very active roles in sponsor meetings, and they’re worried about some of these executive actions.”

A spokesperson for ALEC did not respond to Grist’s requests for comment.

“We’re seeing something that they’re identifying as a new age in climate federalism.”
ALEC is a membership organization for state lawmakers and industry representatives that is best known for drafting model bills that are then picked up by state legislatures. Its bills have been linked to a number of state laws discouraging clean energy and criminalizing protests against pipeline projects. ALEC’s efforts to block climate progress, combined with its alliance with right-wing groups that explicitly promote climate change denial, has led major corporations such as ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Microsoft, and Google to cut ties with the group.

While it’s still too early to tell exactly what shape opposition to the Biden administration’s climate proposals will take, the ALEC calls provide a few indications. On the calls, Ivory floated three potential ways for state lawmakers to present a united front against the Biden agenda: nullification, or passing state legislation to invalidate federal actions that states believe are unconstitutional; the initiation of a constitutional convention that would pass amendments giving states more power; and the passage of non-binding resolutions reaffirming the U.S. Constitution’s Tenth Amendment, which declares that powers not explicitly granted to the federal government belong to the states, in state legislatures.

“The states have to be able to speak with one voice,” Ivory said. “As John Adams said, ‘The clocks all have to strike at one.’”

Political scientists who spoke to Grist doubted the likelihood of a constitutional convention or nullification actions, but they cautioned against underestimating the effects of passing resolutions at the state level and discussing ways to wrest power from the federal government.

The moves are symbolic and help unify disparate camps within the conservative movement.
“They’re providing the intellectual scaffolding for this elite movement,” said Jacob Grumbach, a University of Washington political science professor who has studied ALEC closely. The moves are symbolic and help unify disparate camps within the conservative movement—from anti-abortion groups to pro-gun groups and fossil fuel interests—by highlighting the shared benefits of more power at the state level, he said.

Grumbach noted that, during the Trump years, ALEC was less involved in the issues animating national politics than it had been during previous administrations, and it further cemented its position as a bill mill for state legislatures. ALEC’s federalism initiatives are already cropping up in state legislatures. Resolutions reaffirming the Tenth Amendment and ostensibly nullifying Biden’s executive orders have been introduced in at least four states—Idaho, Texas, South Carolina, and Montana—this year, but they have not yet passed. The bills are based on a theory that states have the right to veto federal policies or declare them “null and void” within their borders if they believe they are unconstitutional. The theory has its roots in the antebellum efforts of some states to preserve slavery and has not been upheld in federal court.

Leah Stokes, a political science professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said that it was predictable that ALEC’s new federalism working group would be laser-focused on climate policy. (Editor’s note: Stokes was selected as a Grist 50 Fixer in 2020.) With the exodus of technology companies from ALEC, many of the organization’s remaining members are oil and gas interests.

“It’s not surprising to see the fossil fuel industry try to push back and weaken progress because they don’t want us to get off fossil fuels,” she said. “They want to keep making profit and imperil the climate stability and the health of people all across the United States. That’s how they make money.”
https://www.motherjones.com/environment ... n-climate/

Just a reminder the founders and biggest supporters of ALEC was the Koch Brothers and their oil &gas KOCH Industries, that would be the main beneficiary of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Re: Leaked Calls Reveal ALEC’s Secret Plan to Thwart Biden on Climate

Posted: Sun Apr 18, 2021 1:51 pm
by CDFingers
Madame Toodle-oo de ALEC: "That is super-secret, double-pinkie swear classified!"

Demo Clouseau: "Not anymore."

CDFingers

Re: Leaked Calls Reveal ALEC’s Secret Plan to Thwart Biden on Climate

Posted: Sun Apr 18, 2021 8:41 pm
by wings
“The states have to be able to speak with one voice,” Ivory said. “As John Adams said, ‘The clocks all have to strike at one.’”
:rofl:
Anyone want to explain federalism to these people?

US carbon emissions are half what the EIA projected they would be fifteen years ago. It's cheaper to build wind turbines than mine coal. The renewable industry employs more people than fossil fuels. Capitalism holds the hammer, profit is the nail, and as the energy industry shifts, so does the balance of power.

Re: Leaked Calls Reveal ALEC’s Secret Plan to Thwart Biden on Climate

Posted: Mon Apr 19, 2021 10:31 am
by TrueTexan
wings wrote: Sun Apr 18, 2021 8:41 pm
“The states have to be able to speak with one voice,” Ivory said. “As John Adams said, ‘The clocks all have to strike at one.’”
:rofl:
Anyone want to explain federalism to these people?

US carbon emissions are half what the EIA projected they would be fifteen years ago. It's cheaper to build wind turbines than mine coal. The renewable industry employs more people than fossil fuels. Capitalism holds the hammer, profit is the nail, and as the energy industry shifts, so does the balance of power.
Tell that to the Texas Legislature.
Despite natural gas failures during winter storm, Texas lawmakers target renewable energy in the aftermath

Texas lawmakers have been advancing sweeping legislation to address some of the major issues stemming from February’s deadly winter storm and catastrophic power outages. But some of the legislative moves are targeting renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, which experts and some lawmakers say seems more like a way to protect oil and gas interests than fix problems with the state’s beleaguered power grid.

Tucked into Senate Bill 3, which seeks to overhaul the state’s electricity market, is a key provision that would shift the financial burden of ancillary services, which help ensure power is generated continuously to Texas’ main electricity grid, to renewable energy providers. Texas electric providers currently cover the ancillary services costs.

State Sen. Nathan Johnson, a Dallas Democrat, said he’d feel better about the bill “if there is logic to doing this.”

“But I’m convinced that we’re making a big mistake by attacking a problem that isn’t the problem just because we feel like it might be the problem, when the data says the opposite,” Johnson said on the Senate floor in late March.

Wind power is a renewable energy source that was expected to be a fraction of winter power generation. All sources — from natural gas, to nuclear, to coal, to solar — struggled to generate power during the February storm.

Yet some prominent Texas Republicans during and after the storm blamed the widespread outages on frozen wind turbines. Targeting renewable energy is not new for the Texas Legislature, but lawmakers have revamped their attacks on the sector after February’s power outages left millions without electricity for days.

Johnson ended up voting in favor of SB 3, which has now been referred to the House as it takes up a series of related, standalone bills. Johnson has said he ultimately voted in favor of SB 3 because there are more positives in the legislation than negatives.

He also voted in favor of Senate Bill 2, legislation that would reform the governance of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s main power grid.

On Tuesday, a relatively mild spring day, ERCOT asked Texans to conserve power as it struggled to keep with demand as a high number of power plants were offline for maintenance. And the operator’s early summer assessment found that a combination of a severe drought, heat wave and low winds could lead to more power outages later this year.

Among the legislative reforms of ERCOT is a provision that would alter who can represent power generators in their seat on ERCOT’s board of directors. Currently, any generator has been able to become the sole representative of independent Texas power generators on the ERCOT board, so long as they are a member of the ERCOT market.

SB 2 says the board member representing independent power generators has to own and control more than 5% of “installed capacity in the ERCOT market.” That means only the largest energy companies, which are oil and gas firms such as NRG and Vistra Corp., would qualify. No renewable energy companies meet the Senate bill’s threshold.

“It looks like some sort of culture war thing — fossil fuels versus renewables,” said Michael Webber, energy resources professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “Which is a false choice. You can have both.”

The oil and gas industry is politically powerful in the state and donates immensely to politicians, including more than $5.1 million in the 2020 election cycle to Texas state House and Senate candidates, according to data from the nonprofit National Institute on Money in Politics compiled by Rice University expert Mark Jones.

More than 25,000 megawatts of natural gas generation, enough to power 5 million Texas homes, went down during the storm, along with around 17,000 megawatts of wind generation, according to ERCOT. Natural gas is the largest source of generation on Texas’ grid, especially during the winter.

Yet during various hearings in February and March about the outages, lawmakers spent relatively little time questioning natural gas production and transportation executives.

During the February storm, the state’s gas industry regulators quickly launched a campaign defending the sector, spurred on through emails, tweets and public statements.

“Many including myself have warned for years about the dangers of relying too heavily on unreliable, intermittent forms of electric generation like wind and solar to meet the energy needs for 30 million Texans,” Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian wrote in his newsletter to supporters Feb. 17.

Earlier this month, one Republican lawmaker took a swipe at the renewables industry. Republican state Rep. Briscoe Cain of Deer Park introduced an amendment — which eventually failed — on to a jobs training bill for military veterans that would have eliminated wind and solar energy jobs from the program.

“Oil and gas is king in Texas,” Cain said in early April on the House floor. “We want to make sure they have the best jobs... I happen to think the best jobs are not in wind power and solar.”

But as Texas leaders try to protect natural gas and target renewable energy, big businesses have entered the legislative fight.

Some corporations — such as Amazon, Google and JP Morgan — that have already invested in Texas have come out in opposition to the legislation that would shift the financial burden of ancillary services to renewable energy. Those companies are among many corporate giants to tell Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan in a letter that the cost of ensuring power is continuously generated should be covered by all energy sources, not just renewables.

“Companies want to move to Texas and one of the opportunities is to contract for renewable and cheap power,” said Jeff Clark, Texas-based president of the pro-renewables group Advanced Power Alliance.
https://www.texastribune.org/2021/04/19 ... y-oil-gas/

This Legislature session is sponsored by Big Oil&Gas. If we could put the wind turbines in the capital during a Legislative session every two years and store the energy produce by the hot air and wind, we could power the state for the next two years without another source.

Re: Leaked Calls Reveal ALEC’s Secret Plan to Thwart Biden on Climate

Posted: Tue Apr 20, 2021 6:33 pm
by wings
Classic example of good politicians staying bought. Texas wind generation is pretty phenomenal these days, even if they didn't winterize properly.