Environmental Priorities Act Exposed

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The Environmental Priorities Act was adopted by the ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force and approved by the ALEC Board of Directors in 2010. An updated version on the Act is available on ALEC.org, removed language from the original resolution is indicated with strikethrough text, and the new language is added in bold.

CMD's Bill Summary

This bill attempts to limit environmental regulation based on a model established by climate-change deniers. First, it requires that all environmental regulation be assessed by a panel that does not include a single scientist. It allows one direct representative from the corporate group, the chamber of commerce, and no representative from a public interest environmental group. Also, while a governor-appointed representative of an environmental agency is on the panel, right-wing politicians in executive roles have a history of appointing anti-environment representatives to "environmental" positions. Second, the panel is to use a "Copenhagen Consensus - style framework" to create the assessment, a framework established by climate change-denier Bjorn Lomborg to belittle the importance of climate change and environmental action. Additionally, the panel contemplates outsourcing the reporting to for-profit contractors rather than relying on the expertise of government environmental experts. It also vests extraordinary authority in the hands of the psuedo-science of an economist rather than in actual scientists with experience assessing and weighting actual environmental harms (as opposed to economic assumptions).

ALEC Bill Text

Summary Intent

The legislature finds that there are a variety of current and potential environmental restoration projects, regulations and programs that would benefit the health of the environment, reduce pollution and improve the lifestyle and wellbeing of state residents. Support for these projects or regulations will help leave a legacy of environmental stewardship to future generations and improve the quality of life for current residents.

The legislature additionally finds that state funding is limited and ensuring the most effective use of those limited funds is not only responsible use of taxpayer funds but also provides the greatest environmental benefit.

The legislature finds that without an objective assessment of the state’s environmental priorities, taxpayer dollars may be spent on projects that do not yield environmental benefits and waste opportunities to make real environmental improvements. Such an assessment would provide credible, thoughtful information to the legislature to assess our environmental priorities based on good science and sound economics.

Therefore the legislature adopts the Environmental Priorities Act and establishes the Environmental Priorities Council for the purpose of identifying and promoting effective environmental stewardship. The Council shall work to establish, through written report to the legislature, a list of environmental priorities based on an economic cost benefit analysis and scientific review.


Section 1. {Environmental Priorities Council}

(A) An Environmental Priorities Council (hereafter “Council”) is created that includes:

(1) One member from each party in each legislative chamber
(2) A representative of a state environmental agency selected by the Governor
(3) A representative of the state chamber of commerce
(4) An economist selected by the other members. The economist will act as the chair of the Council

(B) The Council will guide the development of the Environmental Priorities Assessment, select a contractor to undertake the project and help write the final report.

Section 2. {Environmental Priorities Assessment}

(A) The contractor selected by the Council shall produce an Environmental Priorities Assessment (hereafter “Assessment”). The Assessment, using a Copenhagen Consensus-style framework, will analyze the scientific and economic benefits and costs of current and potential environmental projects and policy options.

(B) The Council shall develop a list of environmental projects and policy options to be analyzed. The list shall form the foundation for the Assessment and may include environmental restoration and cleanup projects, environmental regulations and other environmental priorities involving government funding or legislation. The list should be comprehensive of significant current or likely potential environmental projects or policy options.

(C) The contractor will analyze those projects and policy options using a comprehensive process to determine costs and benefits of each proposal. Their research shall include:

(1) Specialist papers written by credentialed economists highlighting these competing policy options. Each paper will address one particular policy or project. These experts will be sourced where possible from within the state. Each specialist will be chosen for his or her knowledge of a specific issue, and is required to identify the costs and benefits of each policy or project as well as potential alternatives.
(2) Specialist papers shall analyze the costs and benefits of each environmental project or policy, including:
(a) Environmental benefits of policy or project
(b) Economic benefits of policy or project using accepted economic standards for cost of a statistical life, discounting and other commonly accepted analyses
(c) Impact on state budget
(d) Macroeconomic impacts of the policy or project using accepted economic models This work shall be independently reviewed to ensure that a range of perspectives is accessed on the costs and benefits of solutions to each policy.
(e) The Council will join with the contractor to carefully review the research and engage with the specialist paper authors. They will create a ranked list identifying the best-to-worst possible policy options and projects for policy-makers.

(D) The final Assessment shall include:

(1) A unique set of research papers prepared by the best specialists in each field, identifying the costs and benefits of different spending options.
(2) A prioritized list created by recognized economists highlighting the investments that should be made as a matter of priority.

Section 3. {Report to the Legislature}

The Council shall present the final Assessment to the legislature prior to the beginning of the session for use in developing budget and policy priorities. The Council shall disband with the presentation of the Assessment to the legislature.

Section 4. {Severability clause}

Section 5. {Repealer clause}

Section 6. {Effective date}