The State Policy Network (SPN) announced on its website last month that it will focus on working with state lawmakers to prevent states from adopting wind and solar power in 2024. 

SPN is the national organization that serves as the central hub of a network of affiliated think tanks located in all 50 states, and is funded by right-wing and corporate donors that include fossil fuel interests. The network also includes associate groups like the Donald Trump-aligned America First Policy Institute and multiple organizations backed by Charles Koch, such as Americans for Prosperity. 

Koch is the billionaire CEO and chairman of Koch Industries, which operates in multiple sectors of the fossil fuel industry. His Stand Together Trust contributed $5 million in 2022 to SPN-affiliated think tanks and millions more to SPN associates like the American Legislative Exchange Council and Cato Institute, according to the Center for Media & Democracy.  

The Energy and Policy Institute is publishing new research profiles of SPN and several affiliated think tanks involved in coast-to-coast efforts to block renewable energy projects

Highlights and links to the new profiles can be found below:

  • State Policy Network: SPN has brought on Amy Oliver Cooke, a political consultant who previously worked for a SPN-affiliated think tank in Colorado that was funded by coal producers in Wyoming, to lead its Energy Policy Working Group. Sponsors of SPN’s annual meeting in Chicago last year included the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, Stand Together Trust, and the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity.
  • Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF): TPPF, which received more than $3 million from Stand Together Trust and the Charles Koch Institute in 2021 and 2022, ran an online fundraising campaign last year that featured false claims about offshore wind farms “beaching whales” and aimed to raise $500,000. Ten of the nineteen individuals listed on TPPF’s board of directors web page have direct financial connections to the fossil fuel industry.
  • Caesar Rodney Institute (CRI): CRI is leading SPN’s national campaign against offshore wind power. The Delaware-based SPN affiliate received $162,500 from the du Pont family’s Longwood Foundation in 2022. The Longwood Foundation’s president Thère du Pont is a director for the DuPont Company, which sells products used by coal and methane gas power plants, and the foundation’s chairman Charlie Copeland works for CRI. Ben du Pont chaired a $150-per-person fundraising dinner for CRI’s anti-offshore wind campaign in November.  
  • Cascade Policy Institute: The Oregon-based SPN affiliate published a report, “Quantifying the Unreliability of Wind and Solar Power in the Northwest,” last year by Eric Fruits. Fruits is also a senior scholar for the International Center for Law & Economics, which received $500,000 in 2022 from Koch’s Stand Together Trust. 

Other SPN affiliates and associate groups have also been ramping up efforts to block renewable energy

The Buckeye Institute, an Ohio-based SPN affiliate, has made the Frasier Solar project and Knox County officials the latest targets of its campaign against Ohio’s Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program. PILOT payment arrangements provide renewable energy developers with tax certainty, while ensuring counties benefit from reliable revenue from wind and solar projects for local schools and services. Frasier Solar has faced opposition from Knox Smart Development, an anti-solar LLC that has connections to the gas industry and has used the Buckeye Institute’s flawed analysis in its efforts to derail the solar project. 

The Buckeye Institute’s Board of Trustees includes Mark Jordan, the president of the gas exploration and production company Knox Energy. Jordan also serves on the board of the Kirkpatrick Jordan Foundation, which contributed $35,000 to $40,000 annually to the Buckeye Institute in recent years, according to IRS Form 990s

The Center of the American Experiment, which received $250,000 from Koch’s Stand Together Trust in 2022, has run multiple anti-wind and anti-solar ad campaigns on Facebook. The Minnesota-based SPN affiliate also received $20,000 from Americans for Prosperity in 2021, when it published an anti-renewables report, “Not in Our Backyard,” by Robert Bryce, a leading purveyor of anti-renewable energy disinformation. 

Image from one of the Center of the American Experiment’s Facebook ads

The John Locke Foundation, a North Carolina-based SPN affiliate, is busy fighting solar farms and offshore wind. The group received $100,000 in 2022 from “the dark money ATM of the right,” Donors Trust, which contributed $19.3 million to SPN affiliates that year. 

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan’s SPN affiliate, received $525,000 from Stand Together Trust in 2022.

[Correction: the section below was updated on March 26, 2024 based on information received from Jarrett Skorup, Vice President for Marketing and Communications for the Mackinac Center in an email to the Energy and Policy Institute. An earlier version of this post said that the Mackinac Center is supporting the Citizens for Local Choice ballot initiative in Michigan.]

Jason Hayes, Mackinac’s director of energy and environmental policy, recently spoke at events hosted by Hope Rising and North Oakland Republican Club that also featured longtime Michigan anti-wind and solar activist Kevon Martis. Martis is currently a spokesperson for the Citizens for Local Choice ballot initiative that aims to repeal Michigan’s new law streamlining siting of renewable energy projects in the state.

“We are not supporting that ballot initiative – you will not find anything where we write or say we support it,” Skorup said in his email to EPI on behalf of Mackinac. 

“Jason did not speak in support of that initiative,” Skorup also said. “He gave factual information about what the laws does, as we have written and testified about many times.” 

In December, Hayes described the package of clean energy laws that Michigan enacted last year as a “nightmare” in the National Review and predicted that “the biggest problem will surely be blackouts.” 
Hayes also opposed the bills, including the renewable energy siting legislation, on behalf of the Mackinac Center last year. 

Martis is also listed as a Senior Policy Fellow at the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), a Virginia-based SPN associate that’s received funding from the coal industry. Martis and Bryce spoke last month at a Knox Smart Development anti-solar event in Ohio. E&E Legal received nearly $950,000 in 2022 from Donors Trust

The Cato Institute, a national SPN associate, received $1.8 million from Stand Together Trust in 2022. Cato hired former Trump Department of Energy politico appointee Travis Fisher, a longtime foe of renewables, last year. Fisher spoke in January at an anti-offshore wind meeting in Maryland led by several Republican members of Congress. 

Linnea Luekin of the Heartland Institute, another SPN associate located in Illinois, called for 2-mile setbacks for wind turbines in an appearance last month before state lawmakers in West Virginia. Heartland received more than $1.25 million from Donors Trust in 2022. 

The Manhattan Institute, an SPN affiliate based in New York, received $495,000 from Stand Together Trust and $1.6 million from hedge funder Paul Singer’s foundation in 2022. Adjunct fellow Jonathan Lesser has churned out a steady stream of anti-renewables opinion pieces featured in Forbes, the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal. 

Lesser is also president of the consulting firm Continental Economics, where his clients have included multiple pipeline companies, and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the group backed by OxBox Carbon CEO Bill Koch that fought Cape Wind. 

Update (March 11, 2024):

SPN spokesperson Lura Forcum responded to this blog post via email and said “we could have communicated our position more clearly.”

“First, SPN isn’t pro or con on green energy or wind or solar power,” Forcum said.

Furcom’s email went on to describe SPN as “working to ensure state leaders understand the problems with weather-dependent energy sources” and repeated talking points that SPN groups frequently use to attack renewables. 

She also referred EPI to Cooke for more info and described SPN as working to inform state lawmakers about “the benefits, including environmental, of clean, reliable energy.”

Cooke’s most recent writings for SPN routinely disparage renewable energy sources like offshore wind, and describe “clean, reliable” energy as including nuclear, methane gas, and geothermal power.

Top image from photo by Wayne National Forest found on WikiMedia Commons. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic 

Posted by Dave Anderson

Dave Anderson is the policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. Dave has been working at the nexus of clean energy and public policy since 2008. Prior to joining the Energy and Policy Institute, he was an outreach coordinator for the climate and energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He is also an alumnus of the Sierra Club and the Alliance for Climate Protection (now the Climate Reality Project). Dave’s research has helped to spur public scrutiny of political attacks on clean energy and climate science by powerful special interests, such as ExxonMobil and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). His work has been cited by major media outlets, such as CBS News and the Wall Street Journal, and he has served as a speaker on panels at national solar industry conferences. Dave holds a MA in Political Science from the University of New Hampshire, where he also received a BA in Humanities.

Posted by Keriann Conroy

Posted by Jonathan Kim