Rising seas, fracking and energy efficiency: 3 policies to support

Voluntary corporate sustainability initiatives and environmental policy are essential, but not complete solutions by themselves.

We also need laws, oversight and guidelines to set the entire competitive floor at a level that protects the environment and ensures a quality and quantity of jobs consistent with human dignity. Such a platform will unleash even more innovation, but in sustainable directions. Responsible and sustainably focused business owners can make a big difference in policy fights by countering what policy makers hear from the traditional business community.

Here are three pro-sustainable business policy items the American Sustainable Business Council is working on in conjunction with many other organizations.

1. Preventing sea level rise

Those of us fortunate enough to experience the American coastline know that it contains some of the nation’s greatest treasures. And it provides the foundation for a massive tourism industry.

But climate change threatens the economic well-being of our coastal businesses with rising sea levels in the decades ahead, just as certainly as the daily tide ebbs and flows.

What’s at stake?

Leaders in Washington need to take some big policy steps if they want to stop the sea level from rising 6 feet by the end of the century as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts will happen without action. Unfortunately, there is not yet enough policy activity to make a difference.

Two specific actions would get things moving in the right direction. First, policy makers could put in place mechanisms such as carbon fees to control how much carbon pollution is put into the air. Second, they can deliver more investments into solar, wind and biomass energy to help transition our country to a clean energy economy.

What can you do?

Use this online tool to urge your elected officials to address rising sea levels. Spread the word about a powerful coastal business campaign against climate change.

2. Protest the proposed fracking rule for the Bureau of Land Management

Last month the public comment period closed for the Obama Administration’s proposed new rule for fracking on federal and Indian lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), including those in the national forest system as well as federal lands near many treasured national parks.

More than 1 million comments were submitted, most of them urging the Obama administration to ban fracking on public lands.

Attorneys General from several states also have protested the rule, although they are proposing that the power to regulate fracking be left to states.

The BLM had accepted comments on the rule for months, even extending the comment period by 60 days due to a high volume of responses.

What’s at stake?

The proposed rule lacks basic safeguards, such as proscribing setbacks from homes, schools and hospitals; banning the use of diesel fuel, and prohibiting open pits for wastewater storage; requiring oil and gas companies to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing; and mandating the capture of methane released as a result of the fracking process.

Nearly 36 million acres of federal land are leased to the oil and gas industry spanning 24 states. Opening these vast and cherished spaces to fracking, as President Obama called for in his climate change plan, would exacerbate climate change, endanger public health and fresh water, and threaten existing economic activities such as tourism, outdoor recreation, ranching and agriculture that are incompatible with an industrialized landscape.

What can you do?

Call Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell with your opinion: (202) 208-3100. Read “Five ways to stop President Obama's plan to frack America."

See how your region of the country could be affected by water usage for fracking.

3. Urge support for the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill

The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (S.761), also known as the Shaheen-Portman Bill, is a bipartisan energy efficiency bill that would save money and energy for consumers, businesses and the federal government.

Shaheen-Portman would achieve greater energy efficiency by strengthening building codes and offering states incentives for additional improvements, giving consumers the chance to save on energy bills and creating construction jobs nationwide. It also would offer financing for commercial retrofit projects to save businesses money, allowing them to potentially add or retain more employees.

The bill also would require that the federal government -- the nation’s largest energy consumer -- determine new ways to reduce its energy usage, developing more efficient equipment and better monitoring and management procedures, thus saving tax dollars and potentially reducing the deficit.

The bill has earned support from more than 200 groups across the political spectrum, including the US Chamber of Commerce and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

What’s at stake?

According to a recent estimate from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Shaheen-Portman would support over 174,000 jobs and save consumers and businesses over $65 billion on energy bills by the year 2030. In addition, it would prevent as much as 676 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere by 2030.

Failure to pass the bill not only would lose those benefits but also make the U.S. less competitive globally. According to the ACEEE, the U. S. currently ranks ninth in energy efficiency among the 12 largest economies worldwide.

What can you do?

Use this online tool to tell your members of Congress to support the Shaheen-Portman bill.

Image of well by Calin Tatu via Shutterstock