Companies push Congress to promote climate action. Is anyone listening?

May 18, 2020 by  
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Companies push Congress to promote climate action. Is anyone listening? Joel Makower Mon, 05/18/2020 – 09:15 What happens when more than 300 business people descend, virtually, on Capitol Hill to advocate for climate action amid a pandemic and economic crisis? Logic would dictate that these well-intentioned lobbyists-for-a-day would be met with a resounding shrug. After all, with two of the most devastating events to hit the United States happening simultaneously, there doesn’t seem to be much room to talk about anything else. As with so many other things these days, logic is not always the best guide. That’s my takeaway from last week’s LEAD on Climate 2020 , organized by the nonprofit Ceres and supported by other sustainability-focused business groups. It was the second annual opportunity for companies to educate legislators and their staff on the need for congressional action on the climate crisis. Among the larger participating companies were Adobe, Capital One, Danone, Dow, eBay, General Mills, LafargeHolcim, Mars, Microsoft, NRG, Pepsico, Salesforce, Tiffany and Visa, along with hundreds of smaller firms . Last year’s LEAD (for Lawmaker Education and Advocacy Day) event brought 75 companies to Capitol Hill. This year’s garnered 333 companies, including more than 100 CEOs, to have video meetups with 88 congressional offices — 50 Democrats, 36 Republicans and 2 Independents — from both the House (51 meetings) and Senate (37 meetings). Some had as many as 70 companies in attendance. This year’s bigger turnout no doubt had to do in part with the ease of meeting from one’s sequestered location — no travel, no costs and a lot smaller carbon footprint — but also from the growing push to get companies off the sidelines on climate action advocacy, whether motivated by external pressure groups, ESG-minded investors, employee concerns or a company’s own board or C-suite. To be quite frank, it was some of the most valuable conversations we’ve had with members on climate in a long time. Last year’s LEAD event focused specifically on carbon pricing; this year’s focus was broadened, Anne Kelly, vice president of government relations at Ceres, the event’s organizer, told me last week. “We reframed it knowing that long-term solutions like carbon pricing are important, but that there were immediate opportunities that companies could speak to.” That, too, may have broadened its appeal. For Nestlé, the event was an opportunity “to have meaningful conversations with Congress on climate change and on our priorities,” said Meg Villareal, the company’s manager of policy and public affairs, in an interview for last week’s GreenBiz 350 podcast . “To be quite frank, it was some of the most valuable conversations we’ve had with members on climate in a long time. I think the virtual platform created an opportunity for us to have very in-depth discussions about what company priorities are and how we want to see Congress engage on climate going into the future.” Among Nestlé’s interests, Villareal said, was scaling up renewable energy use in its operations. “We also want to develop agriculture initiatives for carbon storage and reforestation and biodiversity that help support our carbon initiatives. That was definitely a key piece of some of the conversations we had as well.” Her company is a founding member of the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance , along with Mars, Danone and Unilever. “We put out a set of climate principles last May that have five principles as part of it, the first of which is creating a price on carbon.” Several congressional allies participated, first among them Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), who has a strong record on climate advocacy. It appeared that his role in the event was primarily to cheer the companies on and give them insight into the Capitol Hill zeitgeist. Bank shot Whitehouse made it clear that while CEO pronouncements on their company’s climate commitments are good, they only go so far. “CEOs may say we support a carbon price,” he explained. “No, they don’t. I happen to know that because I have the carbon price bill in the Senate. And nobody’s ever come to me and said, ‘We want to support your bill.’ You can’t underestimate the continued opposition and challenge that the fossil-fuel industry presents. They’re still really strong here and really powerful.” The senator cited the American Beverage Association as a case in point. “Coke and Pepsi both have terrific climate policies. They do all the stuff they should be doing. But they pretty much control the American Beverage Association because of their size. And the American Beverage Association has not lifted a finger, period” to support climate action, he said. CEOs may say we support a carbon price. No, they don’t. I have the carbon price bill in the Senate. Nobody’s ever come to me and said, ‘We want to support your bill.’ Whitehouse advocated what he called a “bank shot” — perhaps an unintentional play on words — as a way to build pressure on companies through their investors. “We put pressure on Marathon Petroleum for the climate mischief that they have done — particularly the CAFE standards, the fuel efficiency standards mischief, that they’ve been string-pulling-on behind the scenes. They could care less when I call them out on that. But their four biggest shareholders are BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street and JPMorgan. And all those entities care quite a lot when they’re funding climate misbehavior. And they get called out on it themselves. So, you can use the pressure that the financial community feels to defend itself now against these climate and economic crash warnings to bring pressure to bear on even very recalcitrant companies.” The human factor I had the opportunity to speak during the LEAD training day, the day before they “hit the Hill” for their member meetings. As part of that, I interviewed Leah Rubin Shen, energy and environment policy advisor to Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware), who co-chairs the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus with Sen. Mike Braun (R-Indiana). I asked Shen, a trained electrochemist with research experience in energy storage technologies and green chemistry, for some insights into what it takes to change minds on Capitol Hill. “I’m a scientist,” she responded. “I think there are plenty of things that we could do tomorrow, or today even, that would make all of our systems much more robust and resilient, and set us on the right path. But politically, it’s just really difficult. As tempting as it is to just say, ‘Well, this is what experts say,’ or ‘This is what people say we should be doing’ — I wish that were enough; it’s not. It needs to be something that will resonate back home.” Storytelling is key, she noted. “Don’t discount the human element. Facts and figures are helpful — ‘This is how many jobs we have in your state,’ or ‘This is what our annual revenue was last year.’ Those things are important and helpful. But being able to tell a story is something that will resonate with a lot of staffers and members both.” Nestlé’s Villareal experienced that in a conversation last week with a congressman from Florida “with whom last year it was a bit of a difficult conversation, particularly around carbon pricing,” she told me. “So, this year, we tried a new approach with that office. We didn’t go in and lead with the ask on carbon pricing but wanted to have more of a general conversation about the companies in his district and how we are prioritizing our carbon principles and our climate principles. And it led into a very healthy discussion on carbon pricing and why the companies in his district were supportive of it. It was a very productive and surprisingly good conversation, and we were really pleased coming out of it.” We have to make these introductions on a large scale so that Congress knows if they act on climate, the broad business community will have their back. The whole exercise isn’t just about getting members of Congress to support climate action. It’s also letting them know that if they do, they’ll get business support.  “We have to make these introductions on a large scale so that Congress knows if they act on climate, the broad business community will have their back,” explained Anne Kelly. “Most lawmakers think that big businesses only want to break the rules, not call for new ones.” Among other things, she says, members generally aren’t aware of corporate climate leadership, science-based targets or large-scale renewable energy procurement by companies. The LEAD exchanges help them understand such things.  According to Kelly, the success of the virtual advocacy day — which she dubbed a “high-impact, low-footprint and low-budget model” — and the enthusiasm by participating companies has led Ceres to consider upping the frequency of LEAD events, from annually to quarterly. “Based on the rave reviews, I’d say many colleagues are hooked,” she added. I asked Villareal, one of those enthusiasts, what advice she’d give someone who hasn’t yet dipped their toe into the congressional advocacy waters. “It can always be scary to try something new, but it is so worth it,” she replied. “In the end, you get tremendous benefit from using your voice and especially on critical and positive issues like climate.” I invite you to follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz , and listen to GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote To be quite frank, it was some of the most valuable conversations we’ve had with members on climate in a long time. CEOs may say we support a carbon price. No, they don’t. I have the carbon price bill in the Senate. Nobody’s ever come to me and said, ‘We want to support your bill.’ We have to make these introductions on a large scale so that Congress knows if they act on climate, the broad business community will have their back. Topics Policy & Politics Carbon Policy Featured Column Two Steps Forward GreenBiz Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage via Shutterstock Close Authorship

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Companies push Congress to promote climate action. Is anyone listening?

Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act is signed into law

November 27, 2019 by  
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In a bipartisan win, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act has been signed into law, making serious harm to “living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles or amphibians” a federal crime. The law also includes a ban on the creation, sale and distribution of any electronic image or digital recording that depicts acts of animal cruelty . The measure was jointly introduced by Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL). The Humane Society of the United States has expressed support for how this anti-cruelty bill has “sailed through the House of Representatives and the Senate with almost unanimous support.” The bill was supported by 302 House cosponsors and 41 from the Senate. It was then signed by President Trump on November 25, marking a defining moment that establishes federal protections for animals . Related: The PACT Act hopes to ban animal cruelty at the federal level “PACT makes a statement about American values. Animals are deserving of protection at the highest level,” said Kitty Block, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “The approval of this measure by the Congress and the President marks a new era in the codification of kindness to animals within federal law. For decades, a national anti-cruelty law was a dream for animal protectionists. Today, it is a reality.” Prior to this federal law, only state laws existed against animal cruelty. But the previous lack of federal legislation on the matter made it difficult to prosecute cases of animal cruelty that spanned different jurisdictions and across several states. Meanwhile, the text of this new federal legislation does itemize some exceptions, such as “(A) a customary and normal veterinary, agricultural husbandry or other animal management practice; (B) the slaughter of animals for food; (C) hunting , trapping, fishing , a sporting activity not otherwise prohibited by federal law, predator control or pest control; (D) medical or scientific research, (E) necessary to protect the life or property of a person; or (F) performed as part of euthanizing an animal.” The Animal Wellness Action, one of the groups involved in the bill’s passage, issued a statement praising lawmakers after the law was signed. “We’re thrilled to see the first anti-cruelty statute in American history signed into law and applaud the President and Congress for providing the voiceless with a level of protection never seen before,” said Marty Irby, the group’s executive director. “The PACT Act will allow federal authorities to crack down on the most egregious of animal abusers and help keep American pets safe from harm.” + PACT Act Via NPR and Humane Society of the United States Image via Pixabay

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Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act is signed into law

Senate Republicans could save methane rules from Trump

April 14, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump is facing opposition to his rolling back of environmental regulations. Of course climate activists and Democrats are fighting back against the administration’s attempts to undermine Obama-era rules on everything from fuel efficiency standards to preventing coal ash from being dumped in rivers. On at least one Trump action however, it is Republicans in the Senate who are pushing back — a bill to overturn a methane regulation for public lands has stalled in the Senate (it passed the GOP-controlled House in February) because, according to reporting from Mother Jones , “a number of moderate and Western state Republican senators have worried about the implications of permanently restricting the Interior Department’s ability to regulate methane emissions.” Methane is a powerful, although short-lived, greenhouse gas with at least 86 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over a time span of 20 years in the atmosphere and 34 times the strength of CO2 over a 100-year time scale. The Interior Department’s methane and natural gas rule limits the release of methane from oil and gas operations on public lands. The natural gas is wasted through leaks, intentional venting, or burning off the gas — a process known as flaring. Related: House Republicans move to make methane pollution great again Some Senate Republicans are hedging on repealing the methane rules because of the permanency of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that allows for Congress to overturn federal rulemaking with a simple majority vote. In other words, the CRA blocks federal agencies from putting forward similar rules at any point in the future, meaning the Bureau of Land Management might not ever be able to regulate methane pollution on public lands no matter who sits in the White House or what party controls Congress. A recent survey by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions found strong support for current federal methane regulations aimed at reducing natural gas emissions. “The idea that conservatives would be attacking a waste reduction measure is kind of bizarre,” the Wilderness Society’s deputy director of energy and climate, Josh Mantell, told Mother Jones. Via Mother Jones Images via Flickr 1 , 2

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Lead pipes in Flint, Michigan are finally being replaced

December 12, 2016 by  
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Months after the Flint , Michigan water crisis emerged, residents still can’t obtain clean drinking water straight from their taps. That may be set to change as the Senate just passed a bill providing $170 million to replace lead -contaminated pipes in the beleaguered city. But the victory could come at the cost of environmental harm in California . Policymakers inserted a rider, or addition, to the bill allowing more Bay-Delta estuary water to irrigate farms, which some environmentalists fear could harm estuary wildlife . Many Flint residents have been waiting for safe, clean water since 2014. With federal government money, the city is expected to replace 29,000 service lines. Although 96 percent of samples from high-risk Flint houses met federal standards for lead, according to state officials speaking this month, the crisis has not yet been fully resolved. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said people will only be confident in the water when old lead infrastructure is replaced. The new government money could enable the city to at last put any fears to rest. Related: 6 Michigan state workers charged with misconduct over the Flint Water Crisis But not everyone is pleased with the Senate legislation. The bill providing relief to Flint includes an addition allowing more Bay-Delta water to irrigate drought-afflicted farms. According to The Guardian, the bill could make way for new desalination projects and dams. As she spoke against the bill, California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer said, “You’re destroying the Endangered Species Act,” but California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who wrote the bill with California Republican congressman Kevin McCarthy, said the legislation was the best they could do after working for three years. The organization Defenders of Wildlife issued a statement saying the rider hurt wildlife like Delta smelt and salmon. Scott Slesinger, Natural Resources Defense Council legislative director, also condemned the bill. He said in a statement , “Federal funding to help begin fixing the pipes at the heart of the Flint water crisis is shamefully overdue. This is a start, but far more is needed to fix Flint and ensure safe drinking water to communities across America. We should not have to trade delinquent Congressional action in Michigan for the erosion of endangered species protection and a threat to fishing jobs in California, but that is the result of the partisan games at play in this bill.” Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons and Mitch Barrie on Flickr

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Lead pipes in Flint, Michigan are finally being replaced

Congress approves $305 billion bill to fund infrastructure and transit programs

December 3, 2015 by  
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The US Highway Trust Fund has been dwindling for the last 10 years, but Congress recently approved a new plan to give it a much-needed boost. Both the House and the Senate have proposed differing legislation to address transportation programs, and this Tuesday compromised on a $305 billion plan that would manage infrastructure care until 2020. Both chambers of Congress are expected to seal the deal by the end of 2015. Read the rest of Congress approves $305 billion bill to fund infrastructure and transit programs

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Congress approves $305 billion bill to fund infrastructure and transit programs

17 green gifts for the home

December 3, 2015 by  
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A house becomes a home when it’s filled with the energy of those who live there, and the houseware items  we’ve put together for this year’s gift guide can help make a home as luminous and eco-friendly as possible. A backyard beehive, sustainable bamboo bowls, and the cutest little hedgehog dryer buddies ever are just a few of the gems  we’ve found that can help make this holiday the greenest yet. GREEN ECO-GIFTS FOR THE HOME >

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New underwater hotel in Florida to use profits to protect coral reefs

December 3, 2015 by  
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If being neighbors with Sponge Bob and The Little Mermaid sounds fun, then a new underwater hotel is a dream getaway. The Planet Ocean Underwater Hotel, which is under construction in Key West, Florida , will offer luxury suites for guests who want to sleep with the fishes. Though it may sound like an ecological disaster in the making, the hotel’s mission is “to help fund and implement a worldwide proven coral reef restoration.” Read the rest of New underwater hotel in Florida to use profits to protect coral reefs

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Senate fails to override Obama’s Keystone XL veto

March 6, 2015 by  
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The Senate put one more nail in the Keystone XL Pipeline’s coffin yesterday when it failed to override President Obama’s veto of the project last week . With a two-thirds majority needed for the override to succeed, the Senate only managed to get 62 votes in favor of an override, with 37 votes going toward sustaining the veto. Read the rest of Senate fails to override Obama’s Keystone XL veto Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: congress votes on keystone xl , keystone , Keystone XL Pipeline , obama , override , presidential veto , senate , Veto , Vote

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Tropical Swiss Thai House wraps a reclaimed wood deck around an azure pool

March 6, 2015 by  
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Read the rest of Tropical Swiss Thai House wraps a reclaimed wood deck around an azure pool Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: architectkidd , homes made from reclaimed wood , reclaimed building materials , reclaimed wood , thai architecture , Thailand , Thailand architecture

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Tropical Swiss Thai House wraps a reclaimed wood deck around an azure pool

Bipartisan Deal Could End Government Shutdown Tonight, Prevent U.S. Default

October 16, 2013 by  
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US Capitol  photo from Shutterstock More than two weeks after disagreements over the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) forced a partial shutdown of the federal government , it appears that relief may finally be in sight. Multiple outlets report that the Senate has agreed on a bipartisan proposal to extend the nation’s debt limit. If Congress approves the package, which is expected, it would extend the debt ceiling, averting a devastating default, and allowing thousands of furloughed government workers to return to their jobs. As Inhabitat has reported over the past 16 days, the government shutdown infringed on Americans’ quality of life in many disturbing ways, from blocking access to publicly funded National Parks , to possibly facilitating a major salmonella outbreak . For all these reasons and more, we can only hope that reason prevails, and a consensus is reached before midnight Wednesday. Keep reading for more details about the proposed deal. Read the rest of Bipartisan Deal Could End Government Shutdown Tonight, Prevent U.S. Default Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: carbon emissions , congress , Environment , federal employees , food safety , government , government shutdown , house , national parks , politics , salmonella , senate        

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