Thursday, July 12, 2007

The global warming alarmists’ bell has been answered, but that is not good enough for environmentalists. State by state they not only are convincing elected officials to address climate change, but they are also placing their own advocates in positions that will push policies on a snoozing populace like smart growth, subsidies for renewable power sources, fuel surcharges, and higher taxes on electricity.

How? Through the savvy efforts of a nearly undetectable organization called the Center for Climate Strategies, which is developing plans for greenhouse gas reduction for several states. The “service” provided by CCS costs its client-states next to nothing, because liberal environmentalist foundations foot the bill instead.

The Harrisburg, Pa.-based group was created by another Keystone State nonprofit called the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. By its own description, PEC has advocated for ecological protections for more than 30 years.

CCS’s model is effective and attractive for cash-strapped states. Typically, CCS representatives develop relationships with key decision makers in their target governments

Like a governor’s environmental agency officials — and lobby them to develop a strategy to address global warming. Familiar lines are invoked: “The Bush administration is doing nothing about this;” “The states are where real innovation is happening;” and “You need to get out front on this to gain the economic advantage over other states.” The last statement means your state must be among the first in the carbon offsets market in order to be a revenue-gainer instead of a revenue-drainer.

Having convinced a environmentalist cabinet member (real tough), CCS then goes for the official decree: get the governor to issue an executive order deeming global warming a crisis, and that something must be done about it. The remedy, included as part of the proclamation, is the creation of a climate action advisory panel, a so-called “stakeholder” group that will approve several recommendations for state legislators to put into law.

Once the executive order is issued, guess who is poised as the expert who can provide the technical analysis; hold the hands of the stakeholder group; run the meetings; write the reports and meeting minutes; maintain their Web site; and “facilitate the development of potential policy solutions?” That”s right, CCS.

The reasons why CCS is so attractive, once they get a state to buy into their global warming pitch, are twofold: They have an easy, ready-made template to help a state to create its own greenhouse gas reduction policy, and states pay very little for CCS’s services. That is because CCS promises to bring money it has raised from environmental advocacy foundations to pay their consultants, while the states themselves pay comparatively little. For example, the state of New Mexico only had to pay $20,000 of what is typically a $350,000 to $400,000 cost for CCS’s total services. Minnesota will pay no more than $40,000 for its climate policy development program.

Meanwhile CCS has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help pay for the consultants it hires. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which has been characterized by the Capital Research Center as “reflexively anti-capitalist,” supplied at least $255,000 for CCS projects in Minnesota, New Mexico and North Carolina. The New York-based Surdna Foundation gave $260,000 for CCS’s work in seven states. At least eight other organizations have sent large contributions to CCS for its work in various states.

What does a state get? A process in which the conclusion is pretty much determined from the outset. CCS arrives at “stakeholder” meetings with all the rules and voting procedures in place. They have a prepared list of dozens of options to be considered for recommendation by the governor-appointed stakeholder group. No cost-benefit analysis is provided for any of the options — instead CCS supplies numbers that highlight the benefits in amount of greenhouse gases reduced, rather than their actual effect on the climate. Analysis is limited to the “cost effectiveness” of implementing the policy options (like smart growth or a renewable fuels portfolio). Meanwhile important factors such as influence on the state’s economy, impacts on health and safety, and effects from increased regulation on businesses and consumers are not taken into account.

As for the process itself, stakeholders do not vote to endorse any policies. Instead all options are presumed acceptable up front, and for them to be eliminated from consideration advisory group members must register their disapproval. In other words it is an “opt out,” system, not “opt in.” That procedure weighs heavily in favor of the passage of the majority of choices, given that most are shown to have some “benefit” while the real price tag for each option is cloaked.

CCS has finished its work in both Arizona and New Mexico, and has also assisted the climate policy process in several other states, including California. It currently is guiding policy decisions in North and South Carolina, Minnesota, Montana and Washington state. CCS advisers are currently trying to get the attention of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, and undoubtedly others.

So environmentalist advocates are overtly funding, while covertly orchestrating, global warming policies in the states. It’s a cheap process but in the end will cost a bundle. Why isn’t anyone putting heat on their elected officials about it?

Paul Chesser is an associate editor for the John Locke Foundation.

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