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Policy Points: Cut Pollution, Move to Safer Chemicals and Keep Our Water Clean


By Richard Eidlin

Voluntary corporate sustainability initiatives and social enterprises are essential but are not game-changers by themselves. In addition, we need laws and regulations that guide our economy toward sound, long-term decision-making, with full recognition of social and environmental externalities. As business leaders, we can and must support policy changes to help make the economy more sustainable.

A sustainable economy will depend on policies that will help advance change on a societal level.  Here are three important policies that will help – and specific actions you can take.

1. Let the EPA ensure clean water

New proposed rules will help protect American streams and wetlands – if the rules are upheld. This could be great news for all who depend on clean water. Under the proposal, announced last month by the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, stream systems and wetlands near rivers and streams will receive more protections than they have in the past.

What’s at stake

Consumers and residents are not the only ones who need clean water: “American business has always depended on the availability of clean water for its success,” said the American Sustainable Business Council in a recent statement on these rules. “EPA’s regulation in this area historically has been a prime example of the vital partnership between business and government. Whether a company is a food producer, a high tech manufacturer of silicon wafers, outdoor recreation guide or a beer manufacturer, businesses rely on clean water to produce high quality and safe products,” continued the statement.

But some business interests including agri-business are lining up to fight the proposal and pushing Congressional leaders to argue against it.

Contrary to claims by lobby groups opposed to the new rules, the rules do not give the EPA new authority not already granted to it by the Clean Water Act. Also, by basing the rules on sound science, EPA has tried to remove politics from its efforts to protect our water.

What you can do

2. Put industry on the path to safer chemicals

Congress is moving forward on comprehensive TSCA reform, but so far the efforts leave much to be desired. One House bill introduced recently was criticized at a hearing on Capitol Hill by Barry Cik, CEO of Naturepedic and member of the American Sustainable Business Council. He testified on behalf of ASBC and the Companies for Safer Chemicals Coalition, which has organized to push for meaningful reform of toxic chemical regulations.

What’s at stake

According to Cik, the proposed bill, the Chemicals in Commerce Act, fails to address a number of areas such as innovation, transparency and safety. “The Chemicals in Commerce Act falls short on each of these principles,” he said. “On transparency issues, CICA codifies the rules that allow chemical manufactures to hide a broad amount of data with little or no justification for doing so”

Cik added, ““The public is increasingly becoming educated about the risks of consumer products containing untested toxic chemicals. Consumers deserve access to transparent information and full disclosure regarding the products that they buy.”

Business owners need to keep the pressure on Congress to ensure that concerns with the legislation are addressed.

What you can do

3. Make a comment on EPA Carbon Pollution Rules for New Power Plants

The EPA is trying to rein in the carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants. While it works concurrently on pollution standards for existing power plants, the EPA is taking public comments on proposed pollution standards for new power plants. The deadline has been extended to May 9.

What’s at stake

Coal plants are the single largest of carbon emissions in the United States, according to EPA data. Currently they emit about 1,700 pounds of carbon per megawatt hour, and it is unlikely that they will be able to meet the new standard. This gives the industry a strong incentive to transition to cleaner, renewable energy, which is a far better job creator than fossil fuel projects. These clean energy and renewable energy jobs are good for business and good for the economy.

Many businesses applaud the proposed standards on coal, but many do not. The fossil fuel industry has demonstrated that it will fight hard before, and is geared up to fight again.

What you can do

Image credit: Flickr/armyengineersnorfolk

Policy Points is produced by the American Sustainable Business Council. The editor is Richard Eidlin, Director – Public Policy and Business Engagement.

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The <a href="http://asbcouncil.org">American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC)</a> is a network of companies and business associations. Its column, Policy Points, identifies public policies where a business voice, grounded in principles of innovation, fairness and environmental stewardship, can make an essential difference in the advocacy process. The goal is to arm readers with information and specific actions to take. As business leaders, we can and must support policy change to help make the economy more green and sustainable. The column editor is Richard Eidlin, ASBC's Vice President - Public Policy and Business Engagement.

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