TSCA Overhaul Falls Short on Protecting Human & Environmental Health

TSCA graphic

The House and Senate have now both passed the reconciled toxic chemical control legislation – the House bill on May 24, 2016 by a vote of 403 to 12 and the Senate bill on June 7, 2016 by voice vote.  The legislation will next move to the President’s desk for signing.

Advocates for human and environmental health, environmental justice, worker safety, sustainable business, cancer organizations, parent groups, and many others have been working for years to strengthen the ineffective Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. TSCA has been an abject failure at controlling toxins in the marketplace and protecting communities. It failed even to regulate asbestos despite mounting evidence of its danger. With approximately 85,000 chemicals in use, TSCA has banned only five of them.

With such an egregious record and with strong coalitions in support of fundamental reform, many hoped that the policy changes needed would finally be forthcoming. The new legislative comprise, however, has several shortcomings that undermine our nation’s ability to protect people and the planet from dangerous chemicals. These weaknesses include:

* Reducing states’ authority to regulate toxins;

* Limiting the regulation of toxics in imported consumer products;

* Funding that still falls short of what the Environmental Protection Agency needs to review a higher number of chemicals in a more timely way.

“Effective toxic chemical control is long overdue, leading to unnecessary illness, suffering, and death. Despite that, tremendous effort has been needed to get toxic chemical control on Congress’ agenda. The new toxic chemical control policy, while making some improvements, falls short of what’s fully needed to protect people and the planet,” said Fran Teplitz, Green America’s executive co-director for business and policy. She added, “Green America will continue to mobilize consumers and businesses in support of the strongest safeguards against toxic exposures and in support of green chemistry innovations.”

“Consumers increasingly understand that products we use every day, including those we put on our bodies and on our children, are not safe. U.S. policymakers have taken some steps, but more is needed if our nation is serious about regulating dangerous chemicals,” said Todd Larsen, Green America’s executive co-director for consumer programs.

Improvements in the current legislation include:

* Requiring the EPA to take into account chemicals’ impact on vulnerable populations such as children and pregnant women;

* Removing the role of “cost effectiveness” in evaluating whether a chemical is safe.

Human and environmental health, not chemical industry profits, must drive control of toxic chemicals while businesses innovate and develop safer alternatives.

Clean Energy Victory Bonds — Now’s the Time

CEVB sandra2CEVB logoCEVB Sandra

The following guest blog post is from Sandra McCardell, President, Current-C Energy Systems, Inc. Albuquerque NM. The Clean Energy Victory Bond campaign is a project of Green America.

When I was born (in the 1950’s), my grandmother gave me the gift of a United States Savings Bond –what would have been called a “Victory Bond” or a “Liberty Bond” if I had been born 10 years earlier, when WWII was still being fought. It was an investment, I always felt, in the future she wanted me to have.

Well, I don’t have any grandchildren (yet – a really subtle hint to my children!) but if I did, I too would want to invest in the future I want them to have. That future would be one where they enjoy rushing rivers, silent winter landscapes, the canals of Venice, mountain passes, coral reefs, whispering pines, a fresh tomato straight from the garden.  It would not be one where they struggle with asthma, where deserts and famine expand, where islands, peoples, and species disappear.  It would be a world where solar farms and dairy-based bio-digesters are seen from the air, not a pall of particulates.  It would be a world where energy is clean, and the US is a world leader in developing and deploying that energy.

It would also be a world where all of us can invest in a clean energy future, can feel that we are doing our part to bring Victory, no matter where we live or whether or not local regulations permit wind turbines. We in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, salute our own Senator Udall for introducing an amendment to the Senate Energy Bill (S.2012) to advance Clean Energy Victory Bonds (CEVB).  It is a bi-partisan effort, with a vote of 50 – 47 the first time it was introduced last month (just short of the 60 votes required) – a result that is almost unheard of in Washington DC these days!  In the House, Representatives Matsui and Lofgren are working to advance a similar bill, and there too sponsorship is increasing. (Read more here.)

It’s a future I believe in, and to which I am committed. For my unborn grandchildren – and for my children and for myself.  If they were available I would invest in those Clean Energy Victory Bonds NOW, because they:

  • Help create 1 million clean energy jobs nationwide
  • Enhance US security by decreasing reliance on foreign oil
  • Provide a safe investment to all Americans starting at $25, because they would be Treasury bonds backed by the full faith and credit of the US government
  • Build US businesses, including here in New Mexico, that manufacture and install clean energy & energy efficiency technologies
  • Maintain the US’ competitive advantage in clean energy technologies
  • Provide a “revenue neutral” way for the US Government to support clean energy and energy efficiency, since all programs supported by the bonds will be repaid
  • Build the clean energy economy without raising taxes

Once they become available, CEVBs will also provide a good and easy way we can act in the present, to bring that good future closer for all of us. Or at least we will be able to act as soon as Congress allows them to be created!

Join me. Invest in our shared future.  Contact your Congress-people and tell them this is a good idea, no matter which side of the fence they sit on.  Then, (as soon as you can) buy some CEVBs – for yourself, for your children, for your grandchildren – and for people you will never meet who also share this complicated and beautiful world.

Business leaders ask IRS employees to give up coffee buzz for bees

13010106_10154205989519658_1900489768_o (002)13010249_10154205989029658_375368039_oBusinesses and advocates are calling on the IRS to go one day without coffee — which benefits from pollination — to create urgency about a future without pollinators. The EPA’s April 14 deadline for comment for its risk assessment on the neonicotinoid imidacloprid — a leading driver of bee and pollinator deaths — coincides with the IRS’ busiest tax week of the year. The American Sustainable Business Council, Green America Business Network, coffee companies and Friends of the Earth hope that IRS employees will increase buzz for swift EPA reform on bee-killing pesticides.

Advocates gathered with signs, flyers and impassioned speeches the morning of April 14 outside of IRS headquarters, reminding the agency that it might need to cut back on coffee if we lose our pollinators. They will encourage IRS employees who accept the challenge to tweet, using #IRSbuzz hashtag.

“While IRS employees look for companies who abuse tax loopholes, the EPA has too many pesticide loopholes and is giving too many breaks to the pesticide industry,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner, Friends of the Earth. “The EPA must be held accountable to act fast to protect pollinators from pesticides that tax their immune systems. Otherwise essential agencies like the IRS and tax accountants around the country might soon find it very challenging to meet the demands of this busy season.”

 “Green business leaders understand the tremendous role bees and other pollinators play in our economic life — contributing nearly $27 billion to the U.S. economy alone. With populations of pollinators in decline, now more than ever we must BEE-aware of the dangerous consequences of neonicotinoid pesticides,” said Fran Teplitz, Executive Co-director for Business, Investing & Policy, Green America. “Businesses committed to social and environmental responsibility call on the EPA to close the loopholes that allow dangerous chemicals to threaten our food system – including economic drivers like coffee!”

“Business people should not take the environment for granted,” said Richard Eidlin, Vice President of Policy and Campaigns for the American Sustainable Business Council. “When you have your next cup of coffee, imagine how your business would operate without bees to maintain coffee crops. Talk about business disruption and lost productivity!”

“Pollinators are essential to coffee agriculture. Although the coffee tree is self-pollinating, bees provide a healthy dose of cross pollination, strengthening the gene pool, which increases the trees’ resistance to disease, and helps them adapt to changing climate conditions,” said Paul Katzeff, CEO and Co-Founder of Thanksgiving Coffee Company.  “Pollinators also increase the yield per tree. Without pollinators we would lose farms to disease and farmers to lower incomes, making scarcity and price a big issue for consumers, and lower yields an issue for the survival of coffee farms.”

A U.N. sponsored report analyzing nearly 3,000 scientific papers concluded that about 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species including bees and butterflies are facing extinction. About three-fourths of the world’s food crops depend on pollination by insects and other animals, the report cites. Some of these crops include food items found on tables around the globe – coffee, chocolate, apples, and carrots.

In January, the EPA released its preliminary pollinator risk assessment for the pesticide imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid pesticide. The risk assessment, conducted with California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, indicates that imidacloprid poses risks to honey bees. EPA’s imidacloprid assessment is the first of four preliminary pollinator risk assessments for the neonicotinoid insecticides to be conducted this year. A preliminary risk assessment of all ecological effects for imidacloprid, including a revised pollinator assessment and impacts on other species will also be released in December 2016. More than 44,887 Friends of the Earth members and 49,888 Friends of the Earth Action members submitted comments to the EPA urging immediate action on imidacloprid.

 

Green Businesses Nationally Support Clean Power Plan

Windenergy by Wagner Christian
Windenergy by Wagner Christian

Twenty-five business groups, including Green America, representing a broad range of industries and regions nationwide, announced on March 31, 2016, that they are filing a friend of the court brief (an “amicus brief”) in support of the national Clean Power Plan, the strongest action to-date for addressing climate change.

The groups say that unrestrained climate change will burden national, state and local economies with increased costs and business disruptions from droughts, flooding, reduced agriculture productivity, extreme weather, rising seas, and other disturbances. In addition they point out that the Clean Power Plan will boost economic growth by generating new market-based solutions and new jobs in renewable energy.

The Clean Power Plan has been challenged in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Given the current vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court and the potential for a 4-4 deadlock, the decision of the Circuit Court takes on greater importance.

Leading the groups is the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), which has a membership network spanning more than 200,000 businesses. Richard Eidlin, Vice President of Policy and Campaigns, said: “This powerful coalition of business organizations believes that the Clean Power Plan is our country’s best current hope for addressing climate change – a major threat to all businesses. It calls for significant reductions of greenhouse gases and wisely provides states abundant flexibility in how to cut emissions. This enables states to take advantage of developing trends, such as in renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

Ron Busby, President and CEO of U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., said, “The U.S. Black Chambers supports the Clean Power Plan because it creates new opportunities for individuals and businesses to run their companies more efficiently while sustaining the environment. The Clean Power Plan is a step in the right direction and it provides incentives to reduce carbon emissions, which ultimately leads to a healthier environment and healthier communities.”

Fran Teplitz, Executive Co-director of Green America, said, “Far-sighted business leaders recognize the value of the Clean Power Plan and understand that greenhouse gas emissions must be sharply cut to protect human and environmental health and our nation’s economic competitiveness. Our economic viability absolutely depends on shifting to a clean energy economy.”

Frank Knapp Jr., President and CEO, South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, said, “Business organizations that oppose the Clean Power Plan are doing the bidding of the fossil fuel industry. Real world experience tells us that implementing the Plan will create jobs and grow our economy. Its decentralized approach allows each state to decide how best to reduce carbon pollution. It protects our nation’s economy from the disastrous effects of unrestrained climate change — including the dire consequences to my state’s tourism economy.”

Polling of small business owners shows they expect to suffer economic harm if the Clean Power Plan does not survive the legal challenges:

  • Majorities of business owners said they were concerned about “carbon pollution” (57 percent) and “climate change” (53 percent).
  • More than half of all business owners (53 percent) believe climate change will adversely affect their business. Of that, 19 percent – nearly one in five – say that extreme weather events associated with climate change already have affected their operations.
  • A clear majority, 64 percent, say that government regulation is needed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.
  • 57 percent say that the biggest emitters, like power plants, should make the most significant cuts in carbon emissions, rather than have all businesses cut emissions equally.

Poll results may be found here: http://asbcouncil.org/poll-small-business-owners#Climate

The appeals court is set to hear oral argument in the case on June 2, 2016, with a decision expected later this year. The case will almost certainly proceed to the United States Supreme Court, with an ultimate decision in 2017.

2015 Proxy Season Set to Break Record

shareholderimage2015[1]According to the latest Proxy Preview  — the authoritative, annually-updated compendium of shareholder resolutions – the 2015 shareholder resolution season is set to break yet another record in terms of the number of resolutions filed on social and environmental issues. This means that corporate management, and shareholders, will face resolutions on some of the most pressing issues facing our society and global community. This form of corporate engagement plays an important role, alongside strategies such as consumer pressure, in urging companies to improve their practices and policies. Shareholder resolutions play a key role in pushing companies to be accountable for the diverse range of impacts that their operations create or exacerbate.

When the Proxy Preview went to press this month, 433 social and environmental resolutions had been filed; 417 were filed at this time in 2014. The highest number of resolutions were filed on environmental issues including climate change; corporate political activity; human and labor rights; and on a range of sustainability issues.

Green America’s 2015 shareholder resolution focus lists highlight dozens of resolutions that Green America addresses throughout the year: carbon pollution; renewable energy; human rights; GMOs; deforestation; sustainability; recycling; and more.

So if you own direct company stock (not mutual funds) – be sure to open your proxy materials and VOTE! Investors are part-owners in the companies in which they invest, and as such, have a responsibility to weigh-in on issues to improve the company. Not sure what to do with your proxy when it arrives in the mail? See Green America’s infographic on What is a Proxy Ballot and What Do I Do With It?

So if you own stock directly in companies like Abbott Laboratories, Bank of America, Chevron, Delta Airlines, ExxonMobil, Google, Hess, Lowe’s, PepsiCo, Walmart, or Western Union – check out Green America’s 2015 Shareholder Resolution Lists for votes to support!

Concerned Investors Push Corporations at Record Level in 2014

This year investors filed a whopping 454 shareholder resolutions on social and environmental issues, up from 402 such resolutions filed last year. The 454 filings exceed the number of social and environmental resolutions ever filed in one year – clear testimony to the growth in shareholder action.

As reported by the Sustainable Investments Institute, not only are the numbers of social and environmental resolutions increasing, but the level of support they are receiving is also on the rise. Votes through August received an average of 21.7 percent support, well above the level of support needed for the resolutions to be refiled in 2015 if the companies continue to fail to address the issues of concern.

Green America educated investors on a wide range of resolutions, many of them filed by the institutional investor members of our Green Business Network. These leaders in socially responsible investing put forward resolutions on issues including banking practices, climate change, corporate lobbying, corporate political spending, human rights, toxic chemicals, water usage, GMOs, and more. The graph depicts the status of our featured resolutions: whether they faced a vote, were withdrawn by the filer due to progress at the company, or were omitted by the SEC for not meeting filing criteria.

Green-America-Focus-list-graph

You can see the final voting results of our Shareholder Resolution Focus List here.

Dominant shareholder concerns included energy and climate issues and corporate political engagement. The highest climate-related vote was 39.4 percent at Valero, urging the company to set quantitative goals for greenhouse gas reductions. Shareholder action on climate change is growing alongside the Divest-Invest movement that urges investors to divest from fossil fuel companies and to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

While it is rare for a social or environmental resolution to receive majority shareholder support, the four social resolutions that did receive majority support, and which were opposed by management, addressed corporate lobbying and the disclosure of election spending. These resolutions at SLM, Lorillard, Valero, and Dean Foods all received more than 51 percent support. These high votes can be attributed to the growing number of investors and investor networks that are actively confronting corporate influence on the integrity of our democracy. Their resolutions range from seeking greater transparency on corporate political actions to bans on corporate political spending.

Green America urges all shareholders of direct company stock to vote your proxies in support of the social, environmental, and corporate governance resolutions that can help push corporations toward more responsible practices and policies.

Thanks to the Sustainable Investments Institute for the shareholder resolution data cited in this post.

Clean Energy Now! No Fracked Gas Exports!

July13-fbcover[1]Momentum is building around the country – and on July 13 our nation will see its first national mobilization against the export of fracked natural gas and in support of the clean energy economy we so desperately need.

Green America is proud to join our allies in supporting the rally and march on July 13 in Washington, DC: Stop Fracked Gas Exports: Cove Point and Beyond!

Green America members and colleagues have taken a firm stand against the development of a fracked, liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant at Cove Point, MD on the Chesapeake Bay. The plant has known threats to human and environmental health – and yet the government has failed to require that a full Environmental Impact Statement be conducted before proceeding with plans for the facility.

We have urged the Maryland Public Service Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject the Cove Point LNG export facility. Water pollution, air pollution, explosions, increased likelihood of earthquakes, and increased gas costs here at home are key reasons to oppose the export of fracked gas.

Now more than ever we need to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that will serve us for generations to come. Every dollar that goes to dirty energy is a dollar taken away from a clean energy future.

Having delivered our statements signed by thousands of concerned individuals and business leaders, we’ll next make our views visible with a major coalitional rally and march in the nation’s capital. Our message is simple: No gas exports from Cove Point and beyond; Invest now in renewable energy and energy efficiency!

Sign up
for the rally and march today! And meet fellow Green Americans at noon at the northeast corner of 3rd St, SW and Independence Ave., SW — look for the Green America sign!