How the bills undermine protections for our environment
Energy companies, corporate polluters, factory farms and their politician allies voted to change environmental rules by:
- Limiting the ability of people to use their local governmental power to protect their towns and neighborhoods from pollution and other hazards, by:
- Expanding the rights of polluters, and limiting regulation of greenhouses gases and other industrial activities, by:
- Additionally, the "Limited Immunity for Persons Responding to Oil Spills Act" is available through the Heartland Institute website; it would free corporations from liability when they cause injury using toxic chemical dispersants to clean oil spills (as happened with the BP-funded cleanup after the Deepwater Horizon spill).
For a full list of bills from this section, click here
Some of this Corporate Agenda Has Already Become Law
Wisconsin Governor and ALEC alumni Scott Walker included language in the 2011 budget bill designed to end mandatory recycling programs for Wisconsin communities. More than 1,000 municipalities in Wisconsin rely on a small landfill tax to fund local recycling programs. Walker wanted to use the money collected from the landfill tax for a new, privatized economic development agency. The proposal outraged county leaders and administrators as well as Republican legislators. Republican State Rep. John Nygren questioned whether the budget measure would really save money in the long run, when balanced with the increased cost of maintaining and building expensive new landfills. The Governor’s actions made no financial sense, but they did comport with ALEC’s Resolution on Packaging and the Municipal Solid Waste Stream
, which criticizes "interfering government mandates” and promotes a free market approach to waste removal and recycling. In the end, cost-effective recycling prevailed in Wisconsin. Learn more here
Did You Know about these Bills?
Eliminating Democratic Land Use Controls
One model bill from ALEC's member corporations would repeal ALL land use planning and zoning for rural counties by both county and state governments. Under this bill, property could be used for any purpose, without regard for single-family, agricultural, or industrial zoning, or environmental land use restrictions.
This would prevent a local government from controlling development, from choosing to support small businesses rather than big-box retailers, from limiting certain businesses -- like nude bars -- near residences or schools, and would prevent local governments from keeping polluting industries out of their community.
Without zoning laws, neighbors who were concerned about a particular property would have to bring individual lawsuits to protect their rights against nuisances like smells or pollution from factory farms. They would not be able to act democratically to set rules for zoning in their towns. Land use could only be restricted by contracts -- but not restricted in perpetuity -- which would require individuals to spend their own money to protect community interests, thereby putting community growth in the hands of the wealthy few.
Is a local legislator who was elected to represent YOU actually protecting the interests of corporations instead of YOU and YOUR FAMILY?
Protecting Factory Farming from Regulation
One of the lesser publicized ventures of Koch Industries was its large-scale confined animal feed operations (CAFOs). At one point, Koch Beef Company was one of the largest cattle feeders in the U.S. When it sought to increase one of its already huge operations by 20,000 head of cattle, workers living a few hundred feet away expressed concerns for their health, and neighbors complained about an exponential increase in smell from Koch’s CAFO. But Koch persuaded friendly state regulators that the neighbors' concerns lacked “technical merit”-- although it ultimately divested the feed lots, while maintaining its Matador Cattle Company and grazing operations near Yellowstone National Park, along with other agricultural operations.
Is ALEC interested in protecting CAFOs? You bet. One of its bills, the “Right to Farm Act,” would bar any lawsuits by neighbors claiming nuisance from any activities that are typical in farming, including industrial agriculture. If this bill passed, it would likely benefit ALEC's agribusinesses members.
Prohibiting Local Efforts on GMO Food and Food Safety
Another model bill
from ALEC's member corporations prohibits local, city or county governments from limiting pesticide use, requiring that communities do whatever officials in the state capitol decide to allow in distant towns. Another bill
places the same restrictions on local efforts to restrict bio-engineered and GMO crops. If these model bills become law, local governments would be prohibited from responding to their community's concerns about pesticide use or the dangers of GMO crops. ALEC allegedly supports "federalism," or state's rights -- a theory premised on the idea that state government can better represent and respond to local interests than a more centralized federal government. But ALEC apparently does not apply this logic to relations between local and state government.
More Helpful Resources
Additional resources on ALEC's corporate agenda:
- ALEC Funding, PRWatch (2011)
- American Legislative Exchange Council and other related articles, SourceWatch (2011)
- Ghostwriting the Law for Corporate America, American Association for Justice (2010)
- Climate Denial Report on ALEC and Exxon Funding for ALEC, Greenpeace (2011)
- Governing the Nation from the Statehouses, Progressive States Network (2006)
- Wolves in Sheep's Clothing, Common Cause (2006)
- Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law, NPR (2010)
- Exposing ALEC, blogging group, Daily KOS (2011)
- ALEC: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests In State Legislatures, People for the American Way (2011)
- Corporate America's Trojan Horse in the States, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council (2002)
- The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law, Commonwealth Institute (2003)
- Wisconsin's Cronon Affair: The Power of a Simple Fact, The Nation Magazine (2011)
- Ghostwriting the Law, Mother Jones (2002)
- ALEC Behind Voter Disenfranchisement Efforts, Center for American Progress (2011)
- ALEC Report, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (2011)
- ALEC Exposed: Business Domination Inc., The Nation Magazine (2011)