3 reasons Trump's EPA pick is bad news for business

Ben N. Ratner

If confirmed as the next head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has said he will fight three of President Obama’s most important environmental initiatives: methane regulations, the Clean Power Plan and United States participation in the Paris climate agreement.

What he hasn’t said is how bad his anti-environment agenda will be for American business. Consider this:

1. Companies will waste millions more in natural gas if federal methane rules are blocked.

Protecting common-sense standards to reduce oil and gas methane emissions is a winning opportunity for American business.

The market value of wasted natural gas in the U.S. is estimated at $2 billion a year, and experts recognize that methane must be addressed if natural gas is to play a constructive role in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

But that did not stop Pruitt from suing the EPA over its proposed methane rules earlier this year.

Efforts to keep methane and other air pollutants out of the air has already spawned more than 75 firms in 500+ locations nationwide. They support homegrown, well-paying jobs in states such as Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Such jobs help support local economies – as well as oil and gas company bottom lines.

In Colorado, where methane regulations have been in place for some time, operators are reporting that environmental, social and financial benefits outweigh costs as they comply with the state’s clean air rules.

Investors are taking notice, too. Several large public pension funds from California and New York were among investors that recently came out in strong support for the North American agreement to reduce oil and gas methane emissions by 45 percent.

With $3.6 trillion in investment assets, these important economic players understand what’s at stake.

2. Undermining the Clean Power Plan will slow job growth and investments in the clean energy sector.

The plan to cut carbon-dioxide emissions from America’s power plants will boost job growth in fast-growing and innovative segments of the American economy: renewable energy and energy efficiency technology.

The Clean Power Plan is expected to create up to 273,000 new jobs in those and related industries, on top of the hundreds of thousands that already exist.

And yet, Pruitt joined a lawsuit against the plan, parroting scare tactic claims that it would increase electricity prices.

In reality, the Clean Power plan capitalizes on economic progress already under way in many states, such as the booming solar energy industry in North Carolina and California that employed a total of 82,000 people in 2015. With costs plummeting in solar energy, renewables accounted for the majority of new installed power capacity in 2015.

It helps explain why American businesses such as Walmart and Google have committed to sourcing 100 percent of their power from renewable generation.

Google was among leading technology companies that defended the Clean Power Plan in court. Market-oriented government support for clean energy will help their businesses gain access to cheap, clean, stably priced energy for years to come, they argued.

3. A withdrawal from the Paris climate treaty would make U.S. companies less competitive.

In a globalized economy, American businesses can benefit from the goodwill and shared direction we achieve by collaborating with other nations like we did with the historic Paris climate agreement. It’s why 365 American businesses recently declared their support for continued U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement.

But Trump and Pruitt, both of whom question climate science, have said the U.S. should pull out of the treaty.

The reality is that if our country did renege on the Paris Agreement and rolled back efforts to limit emissions from our energy industry, American businesses would have a disadvantage as they compete against China and others to seize the mantle of clean energy leadership.

Indeed, with Pruitt likely the only environmental chief in the world to doubt climate change, we may be holding back our companies for years to come. It’s a risk we can’t afford.