Bullies. We've all dealt with them, either personally or with our kids. You know the type: They're overly aggressive, want everything their way and will try to beat you up on the playground if you don't do what they want. In politics today, those bullies have grown up, but they're still bringing the fight to your local playground. But, the stakes are much higher than losing your lunch money.
Last year, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- a coalition of conservative state legislators and corporations -- teamed up with a number of fossil fuel-funded groups including the Heartland Institute, the American Tradition Institute and Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) to dismantle state-level Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) around the country. In 2012, legislators in at least nineteen states introduced bills that would repeal, freeze, or weaken their state's commitment to clean energy. Three of these bills made it into law -- in Ohio, New Hampshire, and Virginia.
But those attacks were just the beginning from these grown up bullies. ALEC's "Energy, Environment, and Agriculture" task force, composed of corporate entities including ExxonMobil, Koch Companies, and Peabody Energy, among other fossil-fuel companies and utilities, has now drafted a model of legislation which would repeal state RPSs, calling it the Electricity Freedom Act. Already, ALEC member legislators have begun or threatened to bring this fight to a playground near you, better known as the state legislatures in Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Michigan, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Montana, Maine and Ohio. And with a total of 29 states having passed RPS, many more states could still be under threat.
But, if there's one thing you know about me from all my other posts: We're more than willing to stand up to bullies. And that's exactly what we're doing.
In an early defensive victory, Kansas rejected ALEC's efforts to tell them what to do. There, the RPS has driven massive investment in wind energy development since its passage in 2009. In the legislature, there were two bills that would have either repealed or weakened the standard. But just yesterday, the House voted 63-59 to send a bill that would repeal the RPS back down to committee for further review. The Senate also rejected a bill weakening the standard by a 23-17 vote. With a supermajority of Republicans in both chambers, we showed that the RPS has created 12,000 jobs and $3 billion worth of investment by the wind industry. Now those are some figures both sides of the aisle can agree upon. And something that even the bullies have a hard time denying.
However, the battle is far from over. The RPS in several other states is still under attack and there are ALEC members ready and willing to forgo stealing your lunch money to do the bidding of dirty polluters.
Missouri: The Renewable Energy Standards (RES) were approved at the ballot box by a two to one margin in 2008. Republican state Rep. Bart Korman, an ALEC member has introduced HB 44 which would allow all hydroelectric plants, no matter how big or old, to count towards the state's renewable energy quota, subverting the standard's original intent. The House passed HB 44 just yesterday. The standard and the will of the people are now threatened. So too are the prospects for the 10,000 jobs and $2.87 billion of economic stimulus that were predicted within two decades of RES passage in 2008.
Ohio: The chair of the Senate Public Utilities Committee, Sen. Bill Seitz, is an ALEC task force member who predictably is calling for a "meaningful review" of the Buckeye State's efficiency and renewable energy standards. In a Feb. 1, memo Sen. Seitz listed nine issues that he wants to see reconsidered. His last bullet point tellingly begins, "In the event that the current EE/RPS benchmarks are significantly altered or abolished... " And sure enough, on the same day, Ohio State Sen. Kris Jordan -- another ALEC task force member -- promoted his bill (SB 216) before the Senate's Energy and Public Utilities Committee which would repeal Ohio's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS). Sen. Jordan must not be listening to his constituents, because a recent poll shows that nearly 80 percent of Ohio voters support a legally-binding clean energy standard.
In addition to Kansas, Missouri, and Ohio, progressives in Wisconsin and Minnesota are having to fight to preserve the integrity of their states' renewable energy policies. Every state with an RPS can expect to be challenged by the deep pockets of ALEC and their dirty polluter allies. These bullies are well-funded by billionaire oil barons who use false data and scare tactics to get their way.
But, we don't have to take it. Together we can stand up to these modern-day bullies and tell them the American people have paid enough and we're not going to take it anymore. It's time to take back our playgrounds and tell them hands off of our clean energy economy. This is our playground too and we need to leave it in a better place than when we found it.