After using last year’s legislative session to deal with Duke Energy’s Dan River coal ash spill, Republicans on the House Public Utilities Committee are bringing back their 2013 attempt to freeze the state’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS). Representatives Millis, Hager, Collins, and Warren introduced House Bill 681 yesterday.
In 2013, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) member Hager was the chief sponsor of the REPS repeal bill. He was joined by at least seven other ALEC members in sponsoring the bill. Hager’s bill started out as a full repeal, but amendments turned it into a bill that would freeze the renewable energy targets at the current rates. Ultimately, Hager could not get the bill through his committee. It was defeated 18-13.
This year, Hager and his colleagues on the committee are pushing to freeze the state at the 6% renewable energy target (which is the 2015 target) for public utilities, municipalities, and cooperatives, likely inspired by the Ohio RPS freeze bill that was passed last year.
ALEC along with the Heartland Institute, Grover Norquist, the John Locke Foundation, the Beacon Hill Institute, and the State Policy Network, all with fossil fuel funding, were involved in the 2013 North Carolina debate. According to The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch:
On April 19, ALEC’s Energy & Environment Task Force Director Todd Wynn published a blog post on ALEC’s “American Legislator” website criticizing North Carolina’s renewable standards as an attack on “freedom.”
Earlier in April the Heartland Institute, which brought the Electricity Freedom Act to ALEC, promoted North Carolina’s repeal effort on its website and penned an op-ed in the Charlotte Observer.
The North Carolina-based John Locke Foundation released a discredited study, along with the Beacon Hill Institute, purporting to show the impact of renewable standards on the state.
All of the groups receive funding from fossil fuel-connected interests like the Kochs, and are associated with the State Policy Network, an umbrella group of right-wing organizations. Even Grover Norquist, whose Americans for Tax Reform has received significant funding from fossil fuel interests, jumped into the fray and tried to convince North Carolina legislators to pass a repeal bill.
While Grover Norquest has moved on from fighting renewable energy laws, the same game plan will perhaps be used again over the coming weeks: an ALEC member or a Koch-funded organization affiliated with the State Policy Network will write an op-ed backing ALEC and Hager’s agenda. The op-ed will either repeat the Beacon Hill Institute flawed study, or it could cite Randy Simmons, a professor at Utah State University, creator of the Institute of Political Economy, and co-founder of Strata.
Utah State is the fifth-bigger recipient of money from Koch-linked foundations among all colleges since 2012, taking in $170,000, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Randy Simmons is also the Charles G. Koch professor political economy.
Strata is a new policy organization based in Utah and was co-founded by Simmons. In February, Simmons authored a Utah State/Institute of Political Economy/Strata report attacking the North Carolina RPS.
Michael Goggin, senior director of research at AWEA, however, points out major errors in the Koch-funded Simmons’ report methodology. Once those errors are corrected, the study actually confirms renewable energy standards create hundreds of jobs and saves consumers tens of millions of dollars.
Additionally, an extensive debunk of the Beacon Hill report was done by Synapse Energy Economics, and similar critiques can be read in the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Morning Sentinel, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Nature Resources Defense Council and the Washington Post.
More on the Beacon Hill and State Policy Network can be found at PolluterWatch.
Update: Americans for Prosperity revealed it is operating an online petition and a phone-banking operation aimed at state legislators to support House Bill 681.