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4 posts categorized "Business Leadership"


On the TRAIN to weaker health protections?

Congress_250Public health protections in the U.S. took a hit late last week with the house passage of an act that would make health concerns secondary to business impacts in assessing EPA regulations.

The Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation (TRAIN) Act of 2011 recently  passed the U.S. House. This bill requires the President to establish the Committee for the Cumulative Analysis of Regulations that Impact Energy and Manufacturing in the United States to analyze and report on the cumulative impacts of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules and actions concerning air, waste, water, and climate change.

Sounds sensible, right? Wrong!

This bill delays or scraps an array of current regulatory actions, turning back decades of progress on addressing environmental health protections. This bill attacks the Clean Air Act by rolling back EPA regulations on ozone, fine particulates and hazardous pollutants like mercury. The bill requires consideration of the effects of regulation on business growth, while effects on public health are secondary. Thousands more deaths and hundreds of thousands more childhood asthma attacks will occur each year as a result of failure to reduce air pollution.

Attacks like this on environmental protections not only undermine the crucial work of the EPA, but the basic principle of government’s role in protecting public health from environmental threats. Rep. Henry Waxman (CA) calls the current U.S. House “the most anti-environment House in history. The House has voted to block action to address climate change, to stop actions to prevent air and water pollution, to undermine protections for public lands and coastal areas, and to weaken the protection of the environment in dozens of other ways."

This bill is based on the assumption that environmental regulations are bad for business. We must challenge this assumption. Regulatory certainty, improved quality of our environment and reduced health care costs all support a healthy business climate.

Unfortunately, Minnesota Representatives Paulsen, Cravaack, Kline and Peterson voted for the bill.

The good news is that representatives Ellison, Walz and McCollum all voted against TRAIN. Rep. McCollum’s amendment to protect the Great Lakes from toxic air and water pollution was defeated. Rep McCollum argued, "The TRAIN Act will make the enforcement of many environmental protections uncertain and will create confusion in the EPA about which public health efforts they can pursue.”

Please thank Rep. Tim Walz, Rep. Betty McCollum and Rep. Keith Ellison for putting public health first and voting against this bill and urge Senators Klobuchar and Franken to help defeat TRAIN in the Senate. Help send this TRAIN back to the station!

Find contact information for your representative and senators.


Can Green Chemistry Create Jobs?

IStock_000009526445SmallGreen chemistry can protect our health and stimulate our economy .

About 4.2 million jobs in the U.S. are directly or indirectly linked to chemical production. While industrial chemicals are an important part of our economy, over reliance on petrochemicals creates pollution, waste and adverse effects on public health. A growing sector of the chemical industry is using greener chemistry to reduce these risks, while making quality, effective products.

A recent report by the Blue Green Alliance and the Political Economy Research Institute highlights the promise of green chemistry for creating jobs while protecting health and the environment. A small sector of the plastics industry, which currently largely depends on petrochemicals, is moving to bio-based feedstock.

The report estimates that if 20% of plastic production shifted from petrochemical-based to bio-based inputs, 104,000 additional jobs would be created in the U.S. This shift will also increase the global competitiveness of the U.S. and help meet worldwide consumer demand for safer products.

Another recent report by the Brookings Institution, “Sizing the Green Economy,” notes that “cleantech” jobs have led the nation in job gains during the recession. The biggest shares of green jobs are in manufacturing, including green chemical products, and export, which includes biofuels and green chemicals. Minnesota’s estimated share of green jobs in 2010 was 37,750 of 2.7 million jobs across the U.S.

The Blue Green Alliance report notes that reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to strengthen regulation of chemicals will put the U.S. on par with Europe and other countries which have taken steps to control industrial chemicals. TSCA currently does not require companies to demonstrate the safety of the chemicals used in consumer products, so companies keep using the same chemicals, rather than using green chemistry to design new safer chemicals. A stronger TSCA will create incentives for innovation. The report notes “the shift towards alternative approaches to chemical manufacturing will reduce toxic releases, lower health risks, decrease reliance on non-renewable resources, and improve our quality of life without compromising economic performance.”

Minnesota businesses, NGOs and representatives from government and academia are working together through the Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum to position Minnesota to take advantage of opportunities in green chemistry.




Minnesota's green chemistry building blocks

By: Ben Lilliston, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

originally published on the IATP Think Forward blog.

No amount of clean living and eating can entirely avoid it: We all have toxic chemicals in our bodies, according to the Center for Disease Control. Exposed through the air, water, food and consumer products, we are bombarded everyday by these toxic chemicals. Fortunately, a new movement in chemistry is working to stop toxic chemicals before they start—in the laboratory.

The first event convened by the Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum and partners at the University of Minnesota: Adding Value through Green Chemistry conference, was held at the Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs last week. Nearly 200 representatives from government, business, academia and nonprofit organizations gathered to share ideas about how to advance the practice of green chemistry in the state.

Shapeimage_2 Dr. John Warner, of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry and one of the early leaders of the movement, described green chemistry as the use of chemicals that pollute less; perform as good or better; and provide a better economic return. To expand the practice of green chemistry, Dr. Warner told participants that we must reform the way chemistry is taught in the United States. He explained how universities currently don't require chemists to take courses on toxicology, environmental impacts of chemicals, or law and policy.

"In chemistry, it was a fait accompli that it had to be hazardous," said Dr. Warner. "All the talk was about mitigating exposure. Green chemistry says, let's look at the intrinsic hazard in the firstplace. Does that molecule have to be toxic? Do I have to spend the money to store, transport, treat and dispose of this hazardous technology?"

Business leaders like Aveda, Segetis, Ecolab and NatureWorks told participants about how they are already implementing green chemistry practices.

Pascal Bordat of the hair and skin care product company, Aveda Corporation, told the group that green chemistry and sustainability were entirely compatible with profitability. Aveda is pushing for 100 percent green ingredients and packaging by 2020.

Segetis is a Minnesota-based company developing alternatives to petrochemicals through sustainable bio-based materials like agriculture crops. Cora Leibig, of Segetis, said a growing emphasis in business on carbon footprints and sustainability gives green chemistry a number of long-term economic advantages. By developing processes that are not toxic, bioaccumulative or persistant, Leibig said companies can save money and resources by not having to invest so much in end-of-the-pipe safety testing.

GreenChem 021 The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Kathleen Schuler told participants that green chemistry practices could save at a minimum $5 billion a year in health costs in the U.S. "Prevention is the core of public health and green chemistry is definitely a piece of the puzzle," said Schuler. "Green chemistry can potentially prevent air pollution, surface and groundwater pollution and food chain pollution." (left, Kathleen and Senator Al Franken at the Adding Value through Green Chemistry conference)

The new Commissioner for Minnesota's Pollution Control Agency, Paul Aasen, pointed out that the  economic benefits of green chemistry should not only include savings from reduced regulatory costs, but also environmental and health benefits. "Green chemistry is as much about changing culture and thinking as it is about science," said Aasen. "We need to make environmental decisions part of everyday decisions."

GreenChem 004 Former IATP President Mark Ritchie (see right), now Minnesota's Secretary of State, and current Minnesota Senator Al Franken also touted the benefits of green chemistry. "Green chemistry is the way forward," Franken told participants.

More details on the presentations at the Green Chemistry Forum, including powerpoints, videos and photos, will be available soon at:

Minnesota 2020 has created a short video on green chemistry in Minnesota featuring the University of Minnesota's William Tolman and IATP's Kathleen Schuler. See below:



MPCA/MDH Report Supports Green Chemistry, Protecting Children’s Health

By Kathleen Schuler, Healthy Legacy Co-Director SCHULER_Kathleen

Today, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Minnesota Department of Health  (MDH) issued the final version of a new report: Options to Reduce and Phase-out Priority Chemicals in Children's Products and Promote Green Chemistry. The report was released as required by legislation called the Toxic Free Kids Act in 2009, which the Healthy Legacy coalition played an essential role in passing. The report deals with methods to phase-out the use of toxic chemicals in children’s products and also with activities to promote green chemistry in the state. You can learn more about green chemistry practices and challenges in Minnesota by registering for the Adding Value through Green Chemistry conference to be held on Friday, January 7, 2011.

Good Next Steps

This joint agency report builds nicely on the current work of the two agencies in addressing problem chemicals in children’s products and promoting green chemistry. Last summer, MDH generated a list of 1,756 chemicals of high concern. These are chemicals that persist in the environment, accumulate in the body and in the food chain or have adverse effects on reproduction or brain development or cause cancer.  They are now working on a smaller list of priority chemicals in children’s products. The MPCA has been surveying businesses on what is needed to advance green chemistry (safer product design) in the state.

The following recommendations from the report are good next steps:

  1. Manufacturers should disclose the presence of priority chemicals in children’s products. The priority chemical list will be available on or before February 1, 2011 and will target specific chemicals from the Chemicals of High Concern list.
  2. Minnesota should continue participating in the Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse (IC2), which provides a vital opportunity for states to share information on chemicals.
  3. Minnesota should evaluate Preferential Purchasing as a tool to reduce the use of products containing priority chemicals.
  4. We need to promoting green chemistry by establishing formal policies, tracking green chemistry practices, considering the field as a part of pollution prevention and maintaining a fulltime staff person to focus on this emerging field. Learn more about the MPCA’s work on green chemistry.

We need to go further

The above recommendations are great next steps, but we need to go further. We need to actually place restrictions on priority chemicals in children’s products to assure that Minnesota’s children are protected. Children are unnecessarily exposed to toxic chemicals in consumer products every day—for example, cancer causing chemicals like formaldehyde in children’s bath products and tris, a flame retardant that was banned in children’s pajamas in the 1970s is now used in foam crib and stroller pads. American businesses have the know-how to design and manufacture products without using toxic chemicals, but some companies might need a stronger push in the form of product restrictions. We need to take the next step in requiring that manufacturers substitute safer alternatives.

The report lays out an array of opportunities to support green chemistry in Minnesota, including establishing formal policies, tracking green chemistry practices, considering the field as a part of pollution prevention and maintaining a fulltime staff person to focus on this emerging field. We should do all this and more. Healthy Legacy supports the maximum level of effort by state agencies and the business community to create a robust green chemistry environment in the state.

Business Initiatives to Promote Green Chemistry

We believe that the business community has an important role to play in advancing green chemistry in our state. To this end, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has convened the Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum, a group committed to fostering a common understanding among businesses, government, non-governmental organizations(NGOs) and academia to advance green chemistry practice and policy in Minnesota and nationally.

TestTube You can join us on Friday, January 7 at our Adding Value through Green Chemistry conference for an opportunity to learn more about green chemistry in the state, attend a keynote presentation from John Warner, one of the “fathers” of green chemistry, and network with the representatives of leading Minnesota companies. Conference participants will get an opportunity to identify concrete actions to promote green chemistry in our state through investment, research, education, business practices and supportive policies. Please join the conversation—Register today!

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