Denying Charges of Climate Change Denial, ALEC Threatens Legal Action

Denying Charges of Climate Change Denial, ALEC Threatens Legal Action

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has threatened legal action against two nonprofit organizations that accuse it of denying climate change, the Washington Post reports.

Attorneys for ALEC — a conservative policy group made up of thousands of mostly Republican state legislators and funded by hundreds of corporate and foundation members — sent letters to Common Cause and the League of Conservation Voters requesting that they immediately "cease making false statements" and "remove all false or misleading material" suggesting that the organization does not believe human activity is causing the globe to warm at an alarming rate. The two organizations refused, however, arguing that ALEC's advocacy efforts and public discussion of the topic are evidence of its skepticism about climate change. According to the Post, ALEC's demands follow an exodus of several high-profile corporate supporters, including Google, British Petroleum, Facebook, Yahoo, and Northrop Grumman — all of which were pressured by activists to withdraw their support for organizations that oppose action to address the threat of climate change. Indeed, Google publicly connected its decision to stop funding ALEC to the climate change issue.

While ALEC officials don't dispute that past meetings of its members have included presentations that question the nature of global warming, they insist that the group does not deny the reality of climate change. Under new leadership — and following an organizational overhaul aimed at repositioning the organization — ALEC now welcomes debate among its members, officials told the Post, even on issues such as renewable energy, a carbon tax, and other measures to curb global warming. As an example, ALEC attorneys cited the organization's model legislation, which acknowledges that "human activity has and will continue to alter the atmosphere of the planet" and "may lead to demonstrable changes in climate."

"There is a new ALEC now that is interested in dialogue and discussion," said Bill Meierling, the organization's vice president for public affairs. "It is a big sandbox, and there is room for a lot of ideas."

But in a letter released last week, attorneys for Common Cause cited the organization's model legislation as evidence that its claims about ALEC are "entirely consistent with how ALEC has discussed, characterized, and approached the issue of climate change," citing a section in the draft which states that " [human] activity may lead to deleterious, neutral, or possibly beneficial climatic changes" and that "a great deal of scientific uncertainty surrounds the nature of these prospective changes, and the cost of regulation to inhibit such changes may lead to great economic dislocation."

"We don't appreciate the attempt to silence [us] just because we disagree with ALEC's positions," said David Willett, senior vice president for communications at the League of Conservation Voters. "Usually if someone wants to get serious about tackling climate change, they ask about working with us; they don't threaten to sue us."

Tom Hamburger, Joby Warrick, Chris Mooney. "This Conservative Group Is Tired of Being Accused of Climate Denial — and Is Fighting Back." Washington Post 04/05/2015.