Is there any hope in the death of the Clean Power Plan?

The veneer is cracking. In more and more corporate and industry settings, we have moved past the incontrovertible regarding fossil fuels and climate change. This morning, Steve Inskeep of NPR interviewed Jeff Holmstead, partner at Bracewell LLP, who represented the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity in litigation regarding the Clean Power Plan. At one time Mr. Holmstead was a deputy administrator in the EPA under President George W. Bush. He may have grown up in Boulder, CO, but he is clearly not a champion of liberal doctrine on industry and climate.

It is profound if we can collectively move beyond debating causality and consequences and discuss the mechanisms of commerce and law to address the environmental and societal risks. If we can pit solutions based on markets against solutions based on regulation rather than arguing the climate change premise, there is hope because we are all at least acknowledging and then talking about solving the same problem.

Inskeep:  “Just to be clear and get this on the record, because the President has, at different times, called climate change a Chinese hoax — does your industry group accept the science that climate change is real, significantly caused by people… dangerous enough to respond to?”

Holmstead:  “Yes. I think that most everybody in the industry does accept that fact and the real question is what’s the best way to go about resolving it. And that’s really what this proposal yesterday is all about.”

The full interview can be heard here:

Men behaving badly

The disrespect, diminishment and abuse of women in the workplace is cultural. In a corporate environment culture starts at the top. It slowly seems to be getting rooted out of certain industries, but in others, like tech, private finance and entertainment, it is still endemic. We need to have the pay parity conversation, but that should not be a substitute for or a higher priority than human decency.

From an ESG perspective this is every stakeholder’s responsibility regardless of role, gender, political or religious affiliation. The first step is to stop being apologists. Then it is time to effect change. And, from an investor’s point of view, this should not only become a priority when it hurts a business’ value. Changing a culture of discrimination and abuse of any sort is always a priority. Do it because it is the right thing and bank a little psychic alpha as compensation. The economic returns will take care of themselves.

The New York Times presented two op-ed’s from women at the opposite ends of the political spectrum that, no surprise, arrive in the same place. NYT is behind a paywall, but if you are not a subscriber, it is still worth spending two of your ten freebies for the month on this editorial by Lena Dunham and this editorial by Gretchen Carlson.

Does this need to be discussed again?

How many people need to be shot by how many gunmen with semi-automatic and automatic weapons before there is, dare we say, supply chain accountability? After today’s mass-shooting in Las Vegas, where the casualty count as of this writing is still rising, there will be talk of mental health care, better venue security, good guys with guns vs. bad guys with guns, and even background checks and gun licenses. It will inevitably devolve into a 2nd Amendment debate rather than looking at how every citizen’s rights can be honored, including certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, something just deprived of hundreds of individuals in Nevada by one man.

The argument that a well regulated militia requires high-powered repeating weaponry is specious. The 2nd Amendment does not specify the nature of the arms to be kept. Where should the line be drawn? RPGs? Bombs? Why is the US military venerated without reserve when we are arguing about who sits and stands for the National Anthem but not trustworthy enough to defend the populace such that individuals and groups need to arm themselves similarly?

As with so many societal and environmental issues, government and regulation is one avenue of address. Commerce is another. These weapons are made by for-profit corporations, public and private. It is possible to accept that the manufacture of these weapons is legitimate and necessary for law enforcement and the military and not absolve these companies of responsibility for inappropriate distribution and use. I cannot sell a mutual fund without a background check, a license, extensive documentation and disclosure, and an examination of suitability for the purchaser. Much of the burden for this falls to the manufacturers (the fund sponsors) and the rest on the sales organizations (broker/dealers). The worst that can happen is the investment goes to zero. The client and the public still walk away, frustrated yes, but very alive.

Various stakeholders must increase pressure on these weapons manufacturers to restrict and control distribution. Just because something is legal does not mean it must be done. Self-regulate. Make a decision as a company that your product is suitable only for use by trained professionals in military and law enforcement scenarios. Control your distribution channels. Do not sell the weapons and do not sell the ammunition outside of these professionals. Terminate distribution agreements with any merchant that violates company rules. Do it because you care about your company, your employees, your communities and your customers.