A day after one Alabamian won a Supreme Court case ensuring American’s First Amendment right to participate in the electoral process through campaign contributions, another Alabamian is doing everything he can to silence an entire industry from being able to do the same.
Alabama Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn is pushing a bill that would prohibit the entire coal and natural gas industries from contributing to candidates running for the PSC.
Although the bill was dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled state legislature, Dunn’s office has continued pushing the proposal.
“Recently the Alabama Coal Association and the United Mine Workers of America joined forces at the state capitol to protest against what they feel are efforts to shut down their industry in favor of renewable energy,” Mike Dubberly of Fox 6 reported on Thursday.
Dunn has consistently refused to participate in interviews since taking office almost four years ago. So yesterday he instructed his chief of staff David Rountree to discuss the proposal with Fox 6.
Rountree said the bill would “prohibit the suppliers of fuel… natural gas or coal, primarily… from making contributions to Public Service Commissioners.”
This would greatly benefit Dunn, who has had several high-profile run-ins with the fossil fuels industry after siding with environmental groups on a series of votes in the Commission. Rountree said the bill does not single out fossil fuels, but would also prohibit green energy providers from contributing as well.
What Rountree did not mention, though, is that environmental groups have already spent millions to influence the public service commission, and would be allowed to continue to do so under his proposal.
The San Francisco-based Energy Foundation, a non-profit entity, has funneled roughly $3 million into Alabama in recent years, many of it earmarked to advance their global warming agenda and shutter coal plants. None of this spending would be prohibited under Dunn’s proposed bill.
Using data made publicly available by the Energy Foundation, here’s a quick snapshot of how much money environmental groups participating in the recent Alabama Public Service Commission hearings received from the Energy Foundation, and what the funds were earmarked for:
• Alabama Arise: $50,000 during the Alabama PSC hearings “to advance clean energy policies in Alabama.”
• Alabama Environmental Council (AEC): $107,000 “to increase capacity and stakeholder engagement on clean energy issues in Alabama,” including $62,000 during the Alabama PSC hearings.
• Alabama Rivers Alliance: $40,000 matching grant during the Alabama PSC hearings “to accelerate the retirement of coal-fired power plants in Alabama.”
• Greater Birmingham Alliance to Stop Air Pollution (GASP): $70,000, including a $20,000 matching grant “to accelerate the retirement of coal-fired power plants in Alabama” and $50,000 “to increase capacity and support for clean air policies in Alabama.”
• Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE): $810,000 for a wide variety of climate-related issues in the southeast, including $60,000 during the Alabama PSC hearings “to accelerate retirement of coal-fired power plants.”
• Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC): $1.8 Million, including $60,000 during the PSC hearings “to accelerate retirement of coal-fired power plants in the Southeast.”
In the interview Thursday, Rountree also ridiculed other public service commissioners for “bashing ObamaCare and throwing stones at Obama’s EPA.”
“Federal law supersedes state law,” Rountree declared. “(Commissioner Dunn) realizes that we have to govern based on the reality of the law, and not political slogans.”
Fox 6’s Mike Dubberly pushed back, suggesting that Dunn’s fellow commissioners may have a point, because “EPA regulations have made coal more expensive to use.”
He also asked Rountree about what he referred to as “the strongest accusation” from the coal advocates, which was that Dunn is simply carrying the water for environmental groups. But Rountree was undeterred, even claiming that environmental groups do not like Dunn, in spite of the fact that he sided with them on every significant issue that came before the commission in recent years.
Coal Jobs Count, an Alabama-based coal advocacy group, released a statement Friday morning saying Dunn is “doubling down on his efforts to silence Alabama’s coal industry.”
“Commissioner Dunn seems to believe that a public official defending Alabama’s coal jobs against harmful EPA regulations is ‘corrupt’,” said Tiffany Bitner, Coal Jobs County’s executive director. “The elected leaders of Alabama’s House and Senate, as well as other commissioners on the PSC, clearly understand the grave danger posed by EPA regulations under Obama. They welcome the support of the coal industry and are vocally fighting back. Why isn’t Terry Dunn?”
The group also released an ad featuring an Alabama coal miner taking direct aim at Dunn.
“PSC Commissioner Terry Dunn wants to pass a bill so that coal miners like me, and their employers, can’t fight back (against Obama),” coal miner John Box says in the ad, which can be seen below.
Silencing the opposition is not the way the political process works in Alabama. Commissioner Dunn should continue to put his ideas before the people of Alabama, allow his opponents to do the same, and let the people of Alabama choose whose ideas they prefer.
Three Republicans are currently challenging Dunn in the Public Service Commission — Place 2 primary set to take place June 3.
Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims