Closing the Halliburton Loophole, and other policy priorities

Policy Matters

Closing the Halliburton Loophole, and other policy priorities

Voluntary corporate sustainability initiatives and environmental policy are essential, but are not complete solution by themselves. In addition we need laws, oversight and guidelines to help shape our economy and planet to one that is just and sustainable. Here are three pro-business policies the American Sustainable Business Council is working on in conjunction with many other organizations.

1. Returning the Punted Farm Bill

Typically reauthorized every five years, the Farm Bill has a major impact on farmers, consumers, rural communities, the natural environment, the 40-plus million people receiving food assistance and global agribusiness. Instead of finalizing the bill in 2012, Congress punted at the end of the year with a nine-month extension. It contains little to celebrate.

What’s at stake? The extension failed to eliminate direct payment subsidies for commodity production regardless of price and income conditions, instead locking them in for another full year. These payments will cost taxpayers $5 billion. At the same time, many smaller, targeted programs to fund farm and food system reform, water and soil conservation efforts, capital for beginning farmers, rural economic development and job creation and organic food were left out completely. In addition, the extension failed to provide much needed disaster aid to farmers hit by severe weather over the past year.

ASBC will be working with the Senate and House Agriculture Committees in 2013 to pass a more responsible five-year bill.

What can you do?

2. More Transparency about Toxic Chemicals

The federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has not been updated since it was first signed into law in 1976. Despite its name, TSCA does not categorize chemicals as toxic or non-toxic. It merely inhibits those chemicals that are not on the TSCA inventory from being imported or manufactured.

As a result, businesses often don't have reliable data to identify the chemicals in their products, what hazards they may pose and whether there are safer alternatives on the market. This presents a serious market barrier to the development and use of safer chemicals and products.

What’s at stake? There is a strong business case for comprehensive TSCA reform, which includes: leveling the playing field by requiring existing chemicals to meet the same testing requirements as new chemicals, expanding markets for safer and greener products, creating a more predictable regulatory system, lowering expenses from chemically induced employee illness and enhancing productivity from improved employee health.

Leading companies from electronics manufacturers to health care providers are highly motivated to identify and use safer alternatives to toxic chemicals. Recent polling by ASBC confirms that today's business leaders are concerned about the health and business impacts that could arise if the products they use or sell contain toxic chemicals, as well as the toxic chemical exposures that may occur as a result of their supply chains.

Businesses, employees and consumers need to pressure their elected officials to keep the process moving.

What can you do?

  • Business owners can the letter to show their support of this important policy change.
  • See the poll of small business owners’ opinions about toxic chemicals.


3. Protect air and water from hydrofracking

Horizontal hydrofracking is a controversial method of extracting natural gas from previously unreachable reserves in dense rock formations found throughout much of the United States and elsewhere in the world. While it has expanded significantly in the last few years, especially in states like Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Colorado, its association with environmental, health and economic problems has come under increasing scrutiny by some municipal governments and civil society.

What’s at stake? Thanks to the Halliburton Loophole, created in 2005 by the Bush/Cheney Energy Bill, fracking is largely exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act and other key air and water environmental regulations. These exemptions, plus gag orders on people who have leased land for drilling -- and the paucity of other than industry-funded studies -- have hindered comprehensive analysis of the impacts of fracking.

Already legal in 34 states, New York is currently the most prominent battleground between those who believe it can be regulated safely and those who want a state-wide ban. Reform of current federal policy is focused in part on the The FRAC (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness to Chemical) Act, a proposed bill in the House of Representatives that would require the disclosure of the chemicals used for fracking in the state.

What can you do?

Image by Thaiview via Shutterstock