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New ALEC Documents Show Regulatory Capture in Action | The Nation

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Lee Fang

Lee Fang

Investigating the intersection of politics, lobbying and public policy at RepublicReport.org.

New ALEC Documents Show Regulatory Capture in Action

The American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative nonprofit that helps corporate lobbyists author “model” legislation for state-level lawmakers, is also a forum for industry to gain access to state regulators.

Greenpeace’s Connor Gibson posted quite a few ALEC documents on his organization’s blog that reveal an unseemly effort by coal lobbyists to thwart air pollution standards. But there’s a twist to this already-familiar campaign against EPA rules. The files, obtained from an ALEC meeting earlier this month, show Indiana Department of Environmental Management Commissioner Tom Easterly presenting his own plan for how to block federal regulations for greenhouse gas emissions.

Rather than working to “implement federal and state regulations to protect human health and the environment,” as his mission statement claims, here we have Indiana’s top clean air official offering coal lobbyists recommendations on how to best block rules curbing pollution. Greenpeace noted:

In a USB drive branded with the logo of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a folder labeled “Easterly” contains a presentation titled “Easterly ALEC presentation 11 28 12” explaining current EPA air pollution rules and how Tom Easterly has worked to obstruct them. The power point is branded with the Indiana Department of Environmental Protection seal. In the latter presentation, Easterly ended his briefing to ALEC’s dirty energy members with suggestions for delaying EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions at coal plants.

Easterly’s presentation, which is posted on his Indiana Deptartment of Environmental Management commissioner webpage, even offered a template state resolution that would burden EPA with conducting a number of unnecessary cost benefit analyses (which the federal government has done through the Social Cost of Carbon analysis) in the process of controlling GHG emissions.

David Flannery, an attorney for several coal-fire utility companies who has sued the federal government over cross-state pollution rules, presented alongside Easterly. Contacted by The Nation, a spokesperson for Easterly declined to reveal the other participants in the meeting. But, a sponsor list obtained by Greenpeace shows that the event was underwritten by Peabody Coal, ACCCE (a trade association for the coal industry), and several other industry groups with a stake in blocking new EPA rules on emissions.

An attached promotional flier from ALEC said companies could pay for the privilege of becoming part of the task force sponsoring the proposed legislation. Asked why a top clean-air regulator would give pollution lobbyists tips for blocking new rules, Easterly’s office told us, “The commissioner regularly meets with and presents information to groups that are interested in environmental affairs.”

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As Greenpeace notes, Easterly’s office also published a “State of the Environment” report last year that advances bogus climate-change-denier arguments.

We’ve seen many, many examples of regulators bending over backwards to provide favors to the companies that they are in charge of regulating, only to be handed lucrative jobs with those same firms after they retire from public office. ALEC has been successful as a ghostwriting front because it poses as a nonprofit charity interested in promoting conservative ideals (a farce, by the way, since the group promotes big government and opposes free trade when it suits corporate interests). In this instance, it seems ALEC is expanding its role and is playing lobbyist match-maker with state regulators.

For more on ALEC, read John Nichols on how the organization has helped stifle progress on gun control.

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