In state capitals across the country, legislators are debating proposals to roll back environmental rules, prodded by industry and advocacy groups eager to curtail regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gases.
The measures, which have been introduced in about 18 states, lie at the heart of an effort to expand to the state level the battle over fossil fuel and renewable energy. The new rules would trim or abolish climate mandates – including those that require utilities to use solar and wind energy, as well as proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules that would reduce carbon emissions from power plants.
But the campaign – despite its backing from powerful groups such as Americans for Prosperity – has run into a surprising roadblock: the growing political clout of renewable-energy interests, even in rock-ribbed Republican states such as Kansas.
The stage has been set for what one lobbyist called “trench warfare” as moneyed interests on both sides wrestle over some of the strongest regulations for promoting renewable energy. And the issues are likely to surface this fall in the midterm elections, as well, with California billionaire Tom Steyer pouring money into various gubernatorial and state and federal legislative races to back candidates who support tough rules curbing pollution.
The multi-pronged conservative effort to roll back regulations, begun more than a year ago, is supported by a loose, well-funded confederation that includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and conservative activist groups such as Americans for Prosperity, a politically active nonprofit organization founded in part by brothers David and Charles Koch. These groups argue that existing government rules violate free-market principles and will ultimately drive up costs for consumers.