Policy Matters

Methane, clean water and GMOs bills need a business voice


Successful sustainability initiatives often depend on strong laws, oversight and guidelines. Leaders in the business world can help make good initiatives come to fruition by fighting for policies that protect the environment.

From climate change to water to GMO labeling, here are three pro-sustainable business policies the American Sustainable Business Council is working on in conjunction with many other organizations.

Support new methane rules

Last month, the EPA announced proposed revisions to the Oil & Gas New Source Performance Standards, including the first federal regulations on methane for the oil and gas industry. Methane, a byproduct of natural gas drilling and a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide, generally has been unregulated, and this rule would not affect existing oil and gas infrastructure in the United States, limiting its impact somewhat. Still, this represents a major step for limiting the worst effects of climate change. Preliminary estimates from EPA officials indicate that the rule actually could bring the industry a net benefit of $150 million. 

What’s at stake

These new standards would help avoid the worst effects of climate change. They follow the release earlier this year of the final Clean Power Plan, designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal- and natural gas-fired power plants. That also was preceded by proposed rules on carbon emissions from future power plants. Together, these rules represent a major step towards reaching the administration’s goal of 26 to 28 percent cuts in carbon emissions.

What you can do

Right now, the Clean Power Plan is facing opposition in Congress, and from some governors. Several states have filed lawsuits to try to block the rule. The business community needs to stand up and show that it is concerned about climate change, and recognizes that the rule offers a number of economic benefits. Add your voice in support of the Clean Power Plan here.

Preserve clean water

A federal judge in North Dakota granted last month a preliminary injunction blocking the implementation of the EPA’s recently announced Clean Water Rule. Thirteen states, including North Dakota, had filed suit to block the rule. In a statement, the EPA said it would continue implementing the rule in other states, arguing that this injunction only applied to the states that had requested it. This decision came just days after two other requests for injunctions were denied in other federal courts.

What’s at stake

Despite claims that this rule would be an economic burden, the business community needs clean water to thrive, and recognizes the importance of this kind of rule. National, scientific polling released last year found that 80 percent  of small business owners, including 78 percent of Republicans, backed the then-proposed rule. Most telling, 71 percent said clean water protections were necessary to ensure economic growth; only 6 percent said they were a burden. That’s because, for industries such as food and beverage production, tourism and manufacturing, clean water is a necessary input into their products.

What you can do

Despite this evidence, the rule’s opponents will continue to make the case that the new rule is bad for the economy. The business community needs to step up and make clear that protecting clean water is an economic necessity, not a burden. Sign on to ASBC’s clean water campaign today.

Only voluntary labeling for GMOs?

Legislation to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) continues to move through Congress. Following its passage in the House earlier this year, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act is expected to move to the Senate. The bill, also commonly known as the DARK Act, would institute a voluntary labeling system and block states from passing their own mandatory labeling laws. However, the timing is far from clear because the bill’s expected sponsor, Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), reportedly has decided he wants a Democrat to co-sponsor the legislation before introducing it.

What’s at stake

There’s a reason why the bill is known as the DARK Act — it would make it harder for consumers to know what is in the food they purchase. Companies already can choose to label products containing GMOs if they choose to, so passing a voluntary standard won’t change that. However, blocking states from being able to pass mandatory labeling laws would be a major setback for consumer confidence and hurt consumer ability to make informed choices about what they buy. One estimate found that sales of non-GMO products would hit $264 billion by 2017. The market shift is already underway, and Congress should not be hampering it.

What you can do

At the very least, Congress must not take away power from the states to set mandatory GMO labeling. Rather than passing voluntary labeling into law, Congress should set a unified standard that respects consumer wishes and lets consumers and food producers take advantage of existing market shifts.