Leaked documents from a series of sessions held in Dallas by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) reveal an agenda to promote climate change skepticism and push for environmental deregulaton.
According to ALEC’s website, with over 2,000 state legislators and almost 300 corporate and private foundation members, the organization is “one of America’s most dynamic public-private partnerships.” Founded in 1973, it seeks to “develop policies and programs that effectively promote the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty.” ALEC’s members meet regularly to discuss and craft government regulation and are responsible for about 1,000 bills that are introduced nationwide every year. On average, 20 percent of those bills go on to become law.
Most recently ALEC met for a conference in Dallas for a series of sessions between July 30 and August 1. Documents from the sessions were leaked to the Center for Media and Democracy, a U.S. watchdog, which has not been shy in its distaste for the allegedly bipartisan think tank. Nick Surgey, CMD’s research director, claims that ALEC is funded by many of the largest fossil fuel and utility companies in the United States and is working aggressively to dismantle environmental regulation.
Past documents leaked to the Center “underlined the [fossil fuel] industry’s urgent need to mobilize state public officials, including legislators, attorneys general, environmental and public utility commissioners, and energy officials in many states” to come out against the EPA’s new carbon emission standards.
The Dallas conference, sponsored by over 50 large corporations (including AT&T, Pfizer, Chevron, Exxon Mobil and TransCanada), hosted sessions for legislators specifically focused on “how to think and talk about climate and energy issues.”
Chris Taylor, a Democratic state representative from Wisconsin and ALEC member, says that at these meetings, “Legislators are just there as foot soldiers, really.” While the council fronts as a partnership between policymakers and businesses, it is really a machine for designing legislation and sticking it in the policymakers’ pockets. “Legislators aren’t coming up with these ideas,” she told the Center.
Molly Fuhs, an ALEC spokeswoman, has said that ALEC’s meetings bring members together “to discuss and debate model solutions to the issues facing the states” and that all model policies must be voted on and approved by a board made of 23 state legislators.
But Nick Surgey maintains ALEC is merely a bridge between polluters and power: “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.”
The council, he adds, “is a big reason the U.S. is so far behind in taking significant action to tackle climate change.”