In early November, the Conservation Leadership Council (CLC) hosted two roundtable events that showcased both potential and existing ways to achieve environmental goals through innovative, solutions-oriented initiatives and market-based solutions.
On Nov. 4, 2013 the Council led the discussion Energy Initiatives that Lower Costs and Safeguard our Environment, which focused on initiatives to increase energy production, efficiency and conservation through market-based solutions.
CLC founding member and former Secretary of Interior Gale Norton and former Interior Deputy Secretary Lynn Scarlett led a discussion on opportunities to provide meaningful and cost-effective air pollution and greenhouse gas reduction and other natural resource impacts, while supporting continued economic opportunities. Panelists and the public held a constructive dialogue on new energy technologies and practices in energy generation and distribution to increase safety and reliability, improve public health and enhance capital efficiency.
Panelist Derek Stimel, associate professor of economics at Menlo (Ca.) College, emphasized streamlining “green energy” investments [PDF] with block grants and federal auctions to increase competition and create a dynamic market place that limits fraud, waste and government cronyism.
George C. Marshall Institute CEO Bill O’Keefe gave an overview of energy policy frameworks and offered a three-pronged solution: inventorying federal energy technology investments; evaluating their cost-effectiveness; and providing an alternative approach to energy research and development through private markets. While Stimel and O’Keefe focused on production, University of Denver research fellow Stephanie Gripne highlighted methods to conserve energy through building retro-fits through cash infusions from private foundations [PDF].
“It is important to look at our energy issues from every angle,” Norton said. “By looking at both energy production and conservation, we will continue reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources while lowering the cost of energy for all Americans. Through open dialogue, the CLC is proposing common sense, market-based solutions that should appeal to policy makers across the political spectrum.”
On Nov. 5, 2013 the CLC talked about The Evolution of Solutions for Endangered Species to advancing innovative, solutions-oriented conservation initiatives to improve Endangered Species Act (ESA) implementation. A special presentation from Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs highlighted the “Texas Model” roadmap, a successful program that protects the state’s economy while achieving important conservation results.
Former Secretary Norton and Combs examined a Texas species protection program that brings problem-solvers and concerned parties together to protect species, such as the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard, without the one-size-fits-all heavy-hand of the ESA. As a result of this cooperative effort, the US Fish and Wildlife Service elected not to list the species as endangered.
“Our ‘Texas Model’ depends on the involvement of the local community. All the stakeholders must meet early and often and share in the task of navigating the ESA process,” Combs said. “Next, the scientific research must be complete and credible. In the case of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard it was thought that it only lived in a few locations in West Texas. Further research revealed that it also existed in 28 additional locations.”
The final panel looked at reforms that can improve the ESA process, including legislation proposed by US Sen. John Cornyn (TX) which takes aim at the “mega-petitions” that hinder the regulatory process. The legislation gives a voice for local governments, landowners and other stakeholders too and offers state and county governments the chance to stop settlements that don’t take into account local interests. It also would ban the use of taxpayer dollars to fund the most problematic types of ESA lawsuits.
“Texas should serve as a model for other states that are trying to protect species and provide a strong, local economy,” Norton said. “As much as Washington may think it has all the answers, every state and local situation is different and needs local input and solutions. To have a process that works, stakeholders have to be involved in the discussion.”
Other panelists included Neal Wilkins, president and CEO of the East Wildlife Foundation, and Michael Bogert, former counselor to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.
Former Associate Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Greg Schildwachter served as moderator.