For Immediate Release, March 17, 2021

Contact:

Howard Crystal, (202) 809-6926, hcrystal@biologicaldiversity.org

Legal Petition Aims to Stop Utilities From Forcing Customers to Bankroll Anti-Environment Trade Groups

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today to prevent electric utilities from forcing customers to finance anti-environment trade groups.

Current accounting systems allow electric utilities to recover the costs of financing anti-environment trade groups from their customers. Today’s petition says that practice violates the First Amendment and asks FERC to amend the accounting system so that ratepayers aren’t forced to support these trade associations.

“It’s time to stop forcing people to support anti-environment trade groups that stand in the way of the urgently needed transition to clean energy. Often those groups are working directly against the customers’ own interests, as well as the future wellbeing of their children,” said Howard Crystal, legal director of the Center’s Energy Justice program. “Millions of dollars are funneled from ratepayers to organizations that pose tremendous threats to the climate and clean energy development. People have a fundamental First Amendment right not to be forced to bankroll groups engaged in political activities they oppose.”

Every month utility customers subsidize the work of trade groups like the Edison Electric Institute and American Gas Association just by paying their electric bills. These groups engage in political activities directly contrary to ratepayer interests. For example, the Edison Electric Institute funds the Republican Attorneys General Association, whose affiliate, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, helped support the Jan. 6 Stop the Steal Rally in Washington, D.C.

Utility trade groups and their affiliates litigate against pollution standards, train utility executives in how to combat clean energy policies and seek to undermine protections for wildlife and the environment. The American Gas Association has been lobbying state lawmakers across the country to prevent local governments from phasing out fossil gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change. Last year Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Tennessee passed laws protecting fossil gas, and similar legislation is being considered in 12 other states.

“FERC has the opportunity to shine a light on how prominent anti-environment trade groups are financed,” said Crystal. “It’s horrifying and illegal that everyday Americans, captured by their electric monopoly, are unknowingly paying groups that are attacking climate and clean energy policies. Cleaning up the accounting system is a vital step to stop this abuse of the people who are actually paying the bills.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.