Corporatism is alive and well in state governments across the USA
The Guardian newspaper has a blockbuster piece out today that shows how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has turned to working through state Attorneys General to stop any efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
The Guardian has learned that the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), a free market group of state legislators funded in part by coal and oil companies such as Peabody Energy and Koch Industries, launched a much broader style of campaigning in 2014 to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from cutting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
Documents obtained by the Guardian offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Alec as the organisation tried to drum up opposition from coal, oil and electricity industry groups and state officials.
The documents showed Alec adopting a new tactic of encouraging state attorney generals to bring lawsuits against the new EPA regulations – and so sink the emissions controls before they come into effect. Alec also encouraged legislators to lobby attorney generals and governors in other states on the EPA rules, the documents showed. […]
“Alec has become quite well known and notorious for promoting model legislation. This is different,” said Nick Surgey, director of research for CMD which investigates corporate influence on public policy. “Alec is engaging much more broadly in the campaign against the EPA regulations, and they are doing so by asking their members to advocate for the coal industry with attorney generals. That is very unusual for them.”
Their efforts even go so far as to encourage state legislatures to adopt state budgets that allocate taxpayer dollars for anti-regulation litigation.
Here in Michigan, our own state Attorney General Bill Schuette has been on the forefront of trying to block the EPA at every turn. In 2011, the state government website had a press release titled Schuette Leads 25-State Challenge to Burdensome EPA Regulations that Threaten Jobs, Endanger Affordable Electricity Rates”.
The EPA’s proposed Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology (Utility MACT) rule would create a new federal regulation to address the emissions of “hazardous air pollutants” from coal and oil-fired power plants. The proposed rule may require the installation of new expensive control technologies to meet the new limits mandated by the EPA. Power plants that can’t meet these new EPA limits may simply have to shut down. Schuette noted that because of this and other new federal air emissions regulations, the EPA’s actions threaten tens of thousands of Michigan jobs and could increase electricity rates for Michigan consumers by an average of 20.5% by 2016, according to some estimates.
This action shows the level of climate denialism in Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s administration, including the office of the state’s top law enforcement official AG Schuette. It also shows clearly that they put corporate profits far above any concern for the health of Americans or of the planet.
But that isn’t all Schuette has done to fight efforts to curb climate change and protect both the planet and our citizens from the harmful effects of air pollutants. As I have written before, when the Environmental Protection Agency took steps to clean up pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, Bill Schuette took it upon himself as AG of Michigan to file an amicus brief opposing the EPA’s clean-up plan.
Schuette also led a coalition of state AGs trying to overturn EPA rules about mercury emissions from power plants. A federal appeals court smacked down Schuette and his corporatist AG pals earlier this month:
A federal appeals court upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever limits on air toxins, including emissions of mercury, arsenic and acid gases, preserving a far-reaching rule that the White House had touted as central to President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda.
In a 2-1 decision yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that the rule “ was substantively and procedurally valid,” turning aside challenges brought by Republican-led states that had argued it was onerous and environmental groups that had contended it did not go far enough.
The EPA called the decision “a victory for public health and the environment.”
In yet another example, Schuette joined the AGs of Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin to oppose EPA rules regarding pollution from coal-fired power plants. An appeals court stopped the new regulations but, this week the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s ruling.
So far, efforts by state AGs to prevent regulation of air pollutants has been largely unsuccessful. However, with ALEC now ramping up its efforts, funded largely by the large corporate interests that stand to benefit from loosening regulations relating to environmental pollution, it’s clear that the fight is ongoing.
When ALEC made the decision to change tactics in this way, it was an admission that they weren’t getting traction through state-level legislation. Now they are attempting to use state AGs and state budgets to enact their pro-polluter agenda on the national level.
Bill Schuette is right there to help with their effort and to show them how it’s done. He is, after all, an experienced veteran at using taxpayer money to promote the profit-driven agendas of corporate polluters.