Climate Change Risk? Nah – The Deniers & Destroyers Are At Work – White House Attempts to Roll Back Obama Legacy

Deniers/Destroyers are at work – at US EPA — the White House — hoping/wishing for rollback of rich Obama legacy positions on climate change issues…

by Hank Boerner – Chairman, Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

March 28, 2017

In classic-CNN style we bring you !!!BREAKING NEWS!!! – the Climate Change Deniers and Environmental Regulatory Protection Destroyers are at work in Washington DC today.

You’ve heard the news by now: President Donald Trump and EPA Administrator E. Scott Pruitt are preening and pompously strutting as they announce the important beginnings of what they want (and hope!) to be the rollback of important environmental and public health protections of the Obama Administration … you know, the “job killers” that were at work putting coal miners out of business.

At least that’s some of the twisting, grasping, pretzel-elian logic that underpins the actions taken today (which in turn tells the Trump loyal voting base that yes, still another campaign promise is being carried out on their behalf).

During his early months in office, President Barack Obama signed important Executive Orders that addressed climate change issues and global warming challenges — and please here do note that these and other Presidential EOs are always based on (1) the existing statutes enacted by Congress and (2) the authority of the Office of the President.

You remember some of the key statutes involved in these issues  — The Clean Air Act (CAA); The Clean Water Act; (CWA) the foundations laid by the all-empowering National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) …and other landmark legislation sensibly reached on a bipartisan basis over the decades since American rivers burst into flames.

Today, President Donald Trump signed [a very brief] EO with a flourish — the “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” Executive Order.

The action orders the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to begin the [legal] process of un-doing or re-doing the nation’s Clean Power Plan, the keystone to President Obama’s actions to address global warming. (Or “climate change” if one is skittish about being on the side of the angels on this issues.)

Here is what today’s EO covers:

  • Executive (cabinet) departments and agencies will begin reviewing regulations that potentially burden the development/or use of domestic energy sources — and then suspend, revise or rescind those that “unduly burden” the development of domestic energy resources…beyond the degree necessary to protect the public interest.
  • All [Federal] agencies should take appropriate actions to promote clean air (!) and clean water (!) for the American People — oh, while following the law and the role of the Congress and the States concerning these matters. (One hopes this includes Flint, Michigan residents. We can hear great, cogent arguments in the Federal courts about all of this.)
  • Costs are to be considered — regarding “environmental improvements for the American People” — as, when “necessary and appropriate” environmental regulations are to be complied with…and the benefits must be greater than the cost.

This is encouraging, if only that it is stated to provide cover for legal challenges: Environmental regulations will be developed through transparent processes that employ the best available peer-reviewed science and economics!

  • All Federal agencies are to review actions that are described in the Trump Executive Order and then submit to the [White House] staffed departments and the Vice President their plan(s) to carry out the review for their agency.

Here’s The Important Deny/Destroy Actions

By swipe of pen, the President revoked these important cornerstones of the Obama Administration climate change legacy:

  • Executive Order 13653 (November 1, 2013) – “Preparing the U.S. for the Impacts of Climate Change.”
  • President Memorandum (June 25, 2013) – “Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards.”
  • Presidential Memorandum (November 3, 2015) – “Mitigating Impact on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment.”
  • Presidential Memorandum (September 21, 2016) – “Climate Change and National Security.”
  • Report of the Executive Office of the President (June 2013) – “Climate Action Plan.”
  • Report of the Executive Office of the President (March 2014) – “Climate Action Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions.”
  • The Council on Environmental Quality guidance (August 5, 2016) – “Final Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of GhGs and Effects of Climate Change in NEPA Reviews.”

And The Very Important Clean Power Plan…

  • A review of the EPA’s “Clean Power Plan,” to be suspended, revised or rescinded, or, new rules proposed following the steps necessary. This will affect:
  • The final rules of the Clean Power Plan (October 23, 2015) – “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generation Units”;
  • Final Rules (October 23, 2015) – “Standards of Performance for GhGs from New, Modified and Reconstructed Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units;
  • Proposed Rule (October 23, 2015) – “Federal Plan Requirements for GhGs Emissions from Electric Utility Generating Units Constructed before January 8, 2015”; “Model Trading Rules: Amendments to Framework Regulations”.
  • The Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases – convened by the Council of Economic Advisors and the Director, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) — is disbanded, and the documents that established the “social cost of carbon” no longer represent public policy.

Beyond these specifics, the EO also orders the Secretary of the Interior to review its rules, and any guidance given, and (if appropriate) suspend, revise and rescind these. Included:

  • Final Rule (March 26, 2015) – “Oil and Gas: Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands”;
  • Final Rule (November 4, 2016) – “General Provisions and Non-Federal Oil and Gas Rights”;
  • Final Rule (November 14, 2016) – “Management of Non-Federal Oil and Gas Rights”;
  • Final Rule (November 18, 2016) – “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation.”

For the record: The EO is intended to (1) promote clean and safe development of “our Nation’s vast” energy sources; (2) avoid regulatory burdens that constrain production, energy growth and job creation; (3) assure the Nation’s geo-political security.

US SIF Weighs In

The influential trade association for sustainable, responsible and impact investing swiftly responded. Lisa Woll, CEO of US SIF, commented:

“On behalf of our 300 institutional members, US SIF belies the Administration should be working aggressively to reduce carbon in the atmosphere and that this Executive Order accomplishes the opposite.

“The United States is paying a high economic price from the ravages of severe drought, wildfires and storms associated with increased atmospheric levels of carbon. This is not the time to retreat from the call to protect current and succeeding generations from the catastrophic implications of further, unrestrained climate change.”

In the US SIF biennial survey of sustainable and impact investment assets, it should be noted here that U.S. money managers with US$1.42 trillion in AUM and institutional asset owners with $2.15 trillion in assets consider climate change risk in their investment analysis — that is three times the level in the prior survey in 2014.

Now — Investors – NGOs – State and local governments – social issue activists — business leaders — Federal and State courts — can push back HARD on these moves by the Trump Administration.

Otherwise, it could be drill, baby, drill — dig, baby, dig — and, hey, it’s good for us, we are assured by the Deflector-in-Chief and his merry band of wrongheaded Deniers/Destroyers in the Nation’s capital!

What do you think — what do you have to say? Weigh in our this commentary and share your thoughts – there’s space below to continue the conversation!

Green Purchasing by Uncle Sam – Are You a Federal Government Supplier – Contractor?

by Hank Boerner, Chairman, G&A Institute

The United States Government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the U.S.A., and some project, in the world.  (US$500 billion in the latest budget.) So – if you are selling to Uncle Sam, tune in to the guidelines recently published the Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).  In December EPA proposed (in draft form) rules for “greener and safer” products to be purchased by the Federal government.

The public comment period is open but expect that sometime soon we will see the official guidelines for supplier companies to follow.  Part of the initiative is to assess the growing number of “eco-labels” in use by trade associations, NGOs, standard setters, etc.

Says EPA:  “These guidelines will make it easier for Federal purchasors to meet the existing goal of 95 percent sustainable purchases, while spurring consumers and private sector to use and demand greener and safer products…” The EPA and the GSA (General Services Administration) created the guidelines for agencies and departments to use in their sourcing.

To emphasize:  The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to ensure 95 percent of new contracts to be “green.”

The EPA/GSA initiative is one of the most recent steps in a continuing journey toward greater sustainability by the Federal government.  Executive Order #13514 got this journey going in earnest in October 2009, soon after President Barack Obama got his administration up and running and cabinet posts filled.  It’s officially the “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance” mandate for all government agencies to follow.

Haven’t been following this EO?  How about the one in August 2012 — “Accelerating Investment in Industrial Energy Efficiency?”  There’s sure to be lots of risk and opportunities inherent in this EO, which addresses the US industrial sector use of energy (30% of the total usage).  The Feds will encourage investment in combined heat and power systems (CHP); the effort involves key departments — Energy, Commerce, Agriculture, EPA, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

There’s lots going on at the Federal government level, and in similar activities in the trickle down into state and municipal governments, as some of the spate of EO’s call for assistance to public agencies at local levels.

We’ll be visiting the Federal government’s dramatic journey to greater sustainability to bring you more news and details…that could present risk or opportunity to your organization.

And in February (25 and 26) at the World Bank in Washington DC, Governance & Accountability Institute and partners, ISOS Group, will present a 2-day, interactive sustainability materiality and reporting workshop for public sector agencies and their suppliers and contractors.  This is the kick off of the GRI Business Transparency Program in the USA for the Public Sector (all levels).  Participants will receive certification and will enjoy specialized guidance during the 6 months that follow by G&A and ISOS.

For information — http://isosgroup.com/gri-certified-reporting/trainings/materiality/

Sector-specific sessions are now scheduled for Food & Agriculture, Beauty & Chemical, Energy & Utilities, Hotels & Tourism.  Details are at the above web site page.

You can also learn more about the agencies that you do business with as they publish their progress reports on sustainability.  These are due this month (all agencies are supposed to report in January of each year).  Also, the largest of the Federal contractors – think of Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics — are publishing sustainability reports.

Also – look at the US Postal Service and the US Army sustainability reports to get an idea of what your customers are saying about their role in the Federal sustainability journey.

Watch this space for news & updates on Federal government actions…especially as the White House issues Executive Orders in President Obama’s second (and last) term in office.