On Dec. 6, 2011, Lisa P. Jackson, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, chaired a roundtable discussion with about 30 business and government leaders at the North Carolina Central University School of Law. The White House Business Council and Business Forward NC, a trade group formed to encourage participation by business leaders in the policymaking process, organized the gathering.
“I truly believe and will always believe that the environment is a nonpartisan issue,” said Jackson as she opened the session with remarks about the collaborative nature of President Obama’s administration. She continued to state that the EPA’s tightening of pollution standards easily contributes more benefit than cost, saving lives and mitigating “hundreds of billions of dollars” in healthcare expenses and productivity losses. She added, “Americans actually like the idea that they’re protected by the EPA.”
She predicted that clean energy would become a $4 trillion-dollar industry and challenged those present to develop the innovations that would create those jobs.
Three businessmen brought challenges of their own related to EPA regulation and support for their environmentally conscious operations.
John Gaither, president and CEO of Reichhold Inc., raised a concern with the U.S. Health Department’s recent listing of styrene as a carcinogen. Gaither stated that “75 years of research shows it’s not a carcinogen” and he wondered aloud about the risks of replacing it with some other chemical in the manufacture of his company’s polyester resins about which scientists have much less knowledge.
Andy Marchiano, president of Longistics, a logistics and trucking company, asked how the EPA might support his fuel-efficient operation by either incentivizing environmental protection or penalizing competitors that forgo the expensive fuel efficiency upgrades.
Greg Merritt, vice president of Cree, an innovator in LED lighting, pressed Jackson about how the EPA intended to ensure the adoption of the new lighting efficiency standards to be enacted Jan. 1st. Merritt suggested “incentivizing the market to adopt energy efficient technologies through tax policy or credits.”
NCCU Law Dean Raymond C. Pierce was enthusiastic about the benefits of roundtable meetings such as this, the second to be held at the Law School this year.
“I think it’s invaluable for the White House, through its Cabinet-level representatives, to seek out the concerns but also the ideas of our top business leaders in formulating policy,” said Pierce. “These men and women are making the decisions that will determine job growth in this state and those decisions can be influenced, one way or the other, by public policy.”
This story was originally published on Dec. 6, 2011 at NCCU.edu.