When the EPA is under threat, so is business: 2 key examples

American businesses benefit tremendously from the robust voluntary and regulatory programs of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These programs are now under threat of massive budget cuts and regulatory rollbacks.  In the coming weeks and months, the experts at EDF+Business will examine what a weakened EPA means for business. 

While some politicians may question the reality of climate change, most CEOs do not. So it’s no surprise that while Congress has been stuck, business has been busy addressing the problem. Luckily, they’ve had a helpful partner by their side: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Contrary to now head of the EPA Scott Pruitt’s claim that business has been subjected to "regulatory uncertainty"—stated during this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference—the Agency has administered a number of voluntary and regulatory programs that help corporations respond to the challenge of climate change. For companies, future planning is simply good business. This is why many in  Corporate America—having long accepted that climate change is real— are continuing to transition towards low-carbon energy options and work with the EPA to move forward in a sensible, cost-effective manner.

But with the recent announcement on Pruitt’s plans to cut the EPA’s budget by a reported 24 percent—to roughly $6 billion, its lowest since the mid-1980's–it may be up to the business community to defend the instrumental role of the Agency in helping business thrive while protecting the environment.

Here’s a look at just two of the many EPA programs that have helped business transition to a clean energy future.

Forging a smart economic future with the Clean Power Plan

Many in the business community strongly supported the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP)—the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. The argument? Dirty sources of energy generation are becoming a growing concern for corporate America. These energy sources are increasingly uneconomic. Fortune 500 companies routinely set renewable energy and emissions reduction goals, but find roadblocks in many energy markets around the country.

Liz Delaney, Program Director, EDF Climate Corps

Fortunately, the CPP can open new opportunities for businesses interested in operating in a clean energy economy. The rule’s flexible framework puts states in the driver’s seat to set plans that call for the most appropriate and cost-effective solutions for meeting pollution reduction targets while spurring innovation. If you ask me, this satisfies Pruitt’s call to "restore federalism" by giving states more of a say in regulations. The plans provide clarity on the energy options available to businesses in different regions, helping to inform their long-term carbon reduction strategies and eventually increase access to cost-effective low-carbon energy.

This explains why last year major innovators including Mars, IKEA, Apple, Google, and Microsoft filed legal briefs in federal court supporting the EPA’s Plan. And more recently, leading executives from over 760 companies and investors—many of them Fortune 500 firms—called upon the new Administration to move ahead with policies to address climate change, like the Clean Power Plan.

The CPP is positioned to:

  • Generate $155 billion in consumer savings between 2020-2030
  • Create 3x as many jobs per $1 invested in clean energy as compared to $1 invested in fossil fuels
  • Lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $54 billion, including avoiding 3,600 premature deaths in 2030

The Green Power Partnership

The Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program launched by the EPA to increase the use of renewable electricity in the U.S. Under the program, businesses are armed with resources and provided technical support to identify the types of green power products that best meet their goals. Since its inception, the Partnership has made notable progress in addressing market barriers to green power procurement.

Through the Partnership, companies can reduce their carbon footprints, increase cost savings, and demonstrate civic leadership, which further drives customer, investor and stakeholder loyalty. Take Colgate-Palmolive for example: as one of the Green Power Partnership’s national top 100, the consumer products giant has generated close to 2 billion kWh of annual green power through wind power alone. This represents 80% of the company’s total electricity use.

Today, hundreds of Partner organizations rely on billions of kWh of green power annually. At the end of 2015, over 1,300 Partners were collectively using more than 30 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually, equivalent to the electricity use of more than three million average American homes.

Pruitt has ratified the belief that we can “grow jobs, grow the economy while being good stewards of the environment”–and he’s right. The renewable energy industry is now outpacing the rest of the U.S. in job creation; which is good news for business and the economy at large. American wind power now supports more than 100,000 jobs—an increase of 32% in just one year—and solar employs more people in U.S. electricity generation than oil, coal and gas combined.

Long-term economics versus short-term politics

We don’t know what will happen in Washington over the next few years. But many businesses are moving forward. Rather than shift course, corporations are increasing investments in clean, reliable power, a move that is consistent with sound business practices.

But business can’t do it alone. The EPA supports responsible companies who have committed to reducing their carbon footprints while safeguarding our planet. It’s time for business to not just leverage their scale and buying power to help accelerate the transition to a clean energy future, but to speak up in favor of maintaining a well-funded agency that continues to make decisions based on sound science and the law.

In his first address to the EPA, Scott Pruitt said, “you can’t lead unless you listen.” Let’s make sure he hears from the businesses that are focused on a future where both the economy and the environment can thrive.

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Why Walmart's Carbon Commitment Can Make Such a Difference

Archimedes said "Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the earth," when explaining the principle of levers.

Leverage is the big news about Walmart’s announcement today. The company has committed to reducing 20 million metric tons of carbon pollution from its products’ lifecycle and supply chain over the next five years. That’s equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 3.8 million cars.

So is Walmart moving the earth? No, not yet. But this is precisely the kind of innovative approach to reducing carbon pollution that we need right now. Environmental Defense Fund worked closely with Walmart to craft this goal and project that makes the most of what Walmart can uniquely do to cut carbon pollution across the globe.

This commitment is bold because: Read more

Calling All California Truck Fleets – Free Money to Purchase Hybrids Now Available

Have trucks in California? You’d better get to your dealer fast, because the California Hybrid Voucher Incentive Program is open for business.

On February 4, the landmark program officially opened, and boy, were fleets ready. In the first 12 hours, about 25 percent of the program’s $20 million in vouchers had been requested.

All fleets with trucks operating in California are eligible for up to 100 vouchers each, on a first-come, first-served basis. With nearly $15 million still up for grabs, so it’s not too late to claim your share. Read more

Fleet Emissions Down Significantly in 2009

Emissions from fleet vehicles are down 17% from 2008 levels and 18% from 2006 levels, according to the State of Green Business 2010 annual report released today. The emissions data was provided by six of the seven largest fleet management companies.

Pages from StateOfGreenBusiness2010

While the sour economic condition was definitely a factor in the size of this decrease, the numbers likely also reflect – and to a significant degree – the fact that over the recent years corporate fleets have made strides to lower per vehicle emissions.

A likely leading non-economic factor in reducing emissions is the adoption of vehicle “right-sizing” practices. Abbott Labs, Infinity Insurance and Owens Corning were among the first companies to demonstrate the value of moving from moving to more efficiency vehicles on a wide-scale. The record gas prices of 2008 gave the shift real momentum. The 2009 emissions data reflects the first full year of operations by the more-efficient vehicles that were cycled into fleets in the mid-2008 buy cycle.

Read more about our work with these companies and partner PHH Arval.

The expansion of other emission reduction tactics is also likely reflected in these numbers. Over the past two years, there has been a proliferation of efforts that work with drivers to adopt fuel-smart driving practices. Here at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we noted the many companies entering this space in our 2009 Innovations Review and also create a suite of materials for fleets to use.

Increased use of efforts to improve routing and reduce idling likely also has contributed to the emissions decline. Leading fleets, including Carrier and Poland Spring, have leveraged telematics software to improve operational efficiency.

Read more in these case studies about Carrier [PDF] and Poland Spring [PDF].

I am optimistic that the trend in fleet emission reductions will continue as the economy recovers of the coming years.

From measuring emissions, right-sizing vehicles, improving routing, reducing idling and improving driving habitats, corporate fleets are broadly adopting strategies to reduce their emissions.