On a sunny, hot September afternoon, 80 protesters turned out alongside a busy highway at the Arlington, Virginia headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). They were demanding that Dominion Resources, Inc. withdraw from ALEC, the right-wing legislation factory behind stand-your-ground laws, attacks on voting rights, and anti-climate laws. Among those joining the protest and speaking to the crowd were Bill Euille, mayor of Alexandria—one of the largest cities in Virginia—and the influential blogger and climate science expert Joseph Romm of Climate Progress.
Richmond-based Dominion, a Fortune-300 company, owns Virginia’s largest electric utility, as well as a huge multi-state natural gas storage and pipeline business. The company is Virginia’s largest carbon polluter and has plans to build a large liquefied natural gas export facility in Maryland and a huge pipeline across Virginia. Both gas projects, if built, would expand markets for fracked natural gas, meaning more dangerous and destructive fracking across the U.S. -- near our schools, hospitals, and backyards.
Dominion is an ALEC member. Documents posted online by Common Cause, a public advocacy organization, show that Dominion executives sit on ALEC’s energy, environment, and agriculture task force, along with Joseph Bast of the climate-denying Heartland Foundation and representatives of major carbon polluters and fossil-fuel interests including Koch Industries-related entities and Exxon-Mobil.
ALEC has been described as a “corporate bill mill.” It brings large polluters like Dominion together with state legislators to work on proposed laws that favor corporate interests. Some have mockingly described ALEC’s initials as standing for “A Legislator for Every Corporation.” The organization’s controversial lobbying has included work against measures to address climate disruption and support for voter-suppression efforts and stand-your-ground gun laws, to name just a few. This has caused some 85 companies, including Walmart, Coca-Cola, and most recently Microsoft, to cut ties with ALEC.
Coalition partners working with the Sierra Club on the Dominion-Dump-ALEC rally included Oceana, Black Youth Project 100 (byp100), Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Greenpeace, and Food & Water Watch.
Alexandria’s Mayor Euille said, “We must push back hard against groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization which has expressly opposed the EPA’s effort to curb carbon pollution from power plants as well as fought renewable energy while promoting dirty fossil fuels.
Noting that Alexandria already suffers from flooding due to sea-level rise, he said, "we must not permit our future well-being to be held hostage by fossil fuel companies and others with a vested interest in maintaining the dangerous, unsustainable status quo.”
Climate Progress blogger Romm, echoing Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts on obligations owed to future generations, said, “it is immoral for one generation to destroy another generation’s vital soil — or its livable climate. What Dominion is doing through its support of ALEC is immoral. It is time for them to stop.”
Sierra Club Virginia Chapter chair Ivy Main stood before the group of protesters and said, “ALEC's agenda is anti-EPA, anti-clean energy, anti-consumer, and anti-worker. And because the only ones who can block the ALEC agenda are the people, ALEC is also anti-voting rights. ALEC is not an organization any public utility should belong to, and Dominion's customers deserve better. Dominion should quit ALEC now.”
At the rally, Jonathan Lykes represented the D.C. chapter of Black Youth Project 100, a group dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all black people. In a powerful speech, Lykes said, “there is a new youth movement budding in our generation -- a movement that is fighting for democracy and the worth of all people. ALEC’s policies on stand-your-ground laws, voting rights, and the environment make it clear that we all need to dump ALEC.”
Hundreds of thousands of Virginians pay electricity bills to Dominion every month. These protestors stood up for the Virginia ratepayers whose money is working against them. If Dominion listens, they will dump ALEC once and for all.
--Seth Heald, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter Vice Chair