Did ALEC Write PA’s Fracking Chemical Disclosure Laws?

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Cora Currier at ProPublica investigates:

This weekend, as part of a story on ALEC’s political activity [7], The New York Times noted that the group recently adopted “model legislation” on fracking chemical disclosure, based on a bill passed in Texas last year. According to The Times, the model bill was “sponsored within ALEC” by ExxonMobil, which runs a major oil and gas operation through its subsidiary, XTO Energy. The advocacy group Common Cause, which provided the documents on ALEC’s lobbying efforts to The Times, describes model legislation, in many cases identifying by name [8] the company that proposed it to ALEC’s task forces […]

In a recent blog post [11], ALEC claimed that legislators in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, New York and Ohio have introduced versions of its model bill, but many of those states vary in the level of disclosure required [4] and how they handle the trade secrets provision. Laws in 11 states require at least partial disclosure [12], and the Bureau of Land Management recently drafted disclosure guidelines [13] for drilling on federal land.

These laws have been relatively well-received [14] by environmental advocates, though the trade secrets issue remains a concern for some. In Ohio, for example, proprietary chemicals don’t have to be disclosed to regulators or the public. In Pennsylvania, they are disclosed to regulators, and the public can request information on them from the state Department of Environmental Protection on a case-by-case basis.

Shady as they are, I do want to push back on a certain line of criticism of ALEC. I see nothing wrong with interest groups writing model legislation. That is, after all, just a more direct example of how all lobbying works: it’s primarily a legislative subsidy.

The problem with ALEC isn’t that they write model legislation, or that legislators use that legislation, it’s that the legislation they write sucks and their ideas are generally bad for the public interest.¬† I don’t really see a political fix, but journalists should continue to do a good job of being vigilant in monitoring whether proposed bills have ALEC ties, and whether legislators who propose them are being forthcoming about the fact that they’re introducing¬†business lobby-written legislation.

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