Apr 14, 2015
With more and more companies abandoning the American Legislative Exchange Council over its refusal to act on climate change, the prominent conservative organization finds itself in a bind: eager to stanch the exodus of high-profile members, yet at risk of alienating the powerful fossil fuel interests that make up its core membership.
“What they’re wanting to do is speak out of both sides of their mouth,” said Nick Surgey, research director at the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal watchdog group that focuses on corporate influence on public policy.
The departure of Google last fall over ALEC’s position on global warming prompted the group to publicly refute allegations that it denies climate change. “ALEC recognizes that climate change is an important issue,” and “no ALEC model policy denies climate change,” it said. This month ALEC sent cease-and-desist letters to two progressive advocacy organizations demanding they retract statements that ALEC denies global warming.
But as recently as December, an ALECsummit
brought together state legislators to develop a model bill for their home states that would dismantle federal environmental and carbon policy, and featured a speaker who said, “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. It is a benefit. It is the very elixir of life.”
“Basically[ALEC is] saying, ‘We’ve turned a new leaf and it’s a new day and we’re not living in the past,’ said Kert Davies, executive director of the Climate Investigations Center, a Virginia-based watchdog group. “Yet there’s not been one model bill they’ve generated that is a solution to climate change. All of them are to block current pathways—from renewables to EPA regulation. Their whole slate of work is actively anti-climate.”
ALEC did not return emails and phone calls seeking comment.
For 40 years, ALEC has convened conservative state legislators and corporations to pare back state-level regulation and try to block federal rules through model legislation, as part of its ideological commitment to small government and unfettered markets. The group is overwhelmingly Republican. With more than two-thirds of state legislative chambers in GOP hands, ALEC’s opportunity to shape state-level policy is enormous. Most of itsfunding comes from conservative philanthropy and corporate members. Some of its most influential members are powerful fossil fuel interests known for blocking climate action.
ALEC’s environmental agenda has included efforts to halt government action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, block renewable energy and teach children that the science is too uncertain to conclude man-made climate change is happening.
Google left the group in September, followed by Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, Yelp, Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp, oil and gas company Occidental Petroleum and most recently BP America.
Global Climate Change