New Models from the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force
Earlier this summer, members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) gathered in San Diego for the organization’s 42nd Annual Meeting. In addition to hearing from three presidential candidates and networking with like-minded legislators and business leaders, the nine ALEC task forces gathered to discuss policy ideas and, in some cases, pass model language or position statements on a wide variety of topics.
During its meeting, the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force passed three items that member legislators proposed. The ALEC Board of Directors gave final approval to these proposals last week.
This model policy would create a state environmental impact litigation fund along with an advisory committee chaired by the state Commissioner of Agriculture. The fund would cover expenses associated with a state “checking” federal environmental regulations – i.e., consulting fees, research costs, expert witnesses, attorney fees, and travel costs. The advisory committee would review federal environmental legislation and regulations that either have or exhibit the potential to detrimentally impact the state’s energy production or agriculture sectors and ultimately disburse monies from the litigation fund to challenge such legislation and regulations. The committee would also be encouraged to work closely with the Attorney General and other state policymakers to develop sound administrative or legal strategies.
Given the massive impact the EPA Clean Power Plan is expected to have on states, this model also includes a special clause expediting approval of money and other resources to challenge the legality of the regulation. The state Attorney General is also encouraged to join attorneys general from other states in filing lawsuits against the final EPA rule.
The ALEC model policy was inspired by efforts in North Dakota to create a federal environmental law impact review committee earlier this year in the 2015 legislative session. While the policy leaves open the precise dollar figure that the state legislature should appropriate for the fund, North Dakota opted for $1.5 million.
This resolution follows the larger debate happening in legislatures nationwide about net metering reform. The ALEC position – like many other state legislator membership organizations – is net metering should absolutely remain, but states should address the cost-shift inherent in some current reimbursement arrangements in order to promote greater transparency and fairness.
This resolution holds that creating a special market for the rooftop solar power industry to sell electricity directly to consumers would increase energy subsidies, electricity costs and taxes, while at the same time further shifting costs to non-distributed generation (DG) customers. Furthermore, by creating such a special market, states would, in effect, give the solar industry a monopoly right to sell power directly to consumers from on-site equipment. The resolution encourages state policymakers to refrain from granting special privileges to one source of electricity over another.
As it currently stands in most states, electricity customers are now being provided solar power by utilities. Utility-scale solar is cheaper to produce and receives a significantly lower subsidy rate as compared to roof-top solar. Further, this resolution does not discourage consumers from purchasing solar power equipment to generate electricity for their own use.
The recently finalized EPA Clean Power Plan has drawn an unprecedented amount of interest and scrutiny from various stakeholders, including many ALEC members. ALEC currently maintains a resolution opposing the regulation of greenhouse gases under §111(d) of the federal Clean Air Act as well as model language that would require legislative approval before a state environmental agency submitted a state implementation plan (SIP) to EPA for approval.
This newest model prevents a state environmental regulator from regulating or mandating any electric dispatch protocols for a utility without newly developed statutory authority to do so. The model also provides language that can be used whether or not states have a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) or energy efficiency standard as existing state law.
Taken together, these model legislative approaches would ensure lawmakers and regulators respect hardworking taxpayers and promote free markets in energy and environmental policy.