Whitman tells business: Environmental rules not the enemy

Whitman tells business: Environmental rules not the enemy
By TOM ZANKI
The Express-Times

November 4, 2009


BETHLEHEM | Stiffer environmental regulations are inevitable but the most resilient businesses will survive, perhaps thrive.

That message was delivered Tuesday by Christine Todd Whitman, former EPA commissioner and New Jersey governor, to the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“We say the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes,” Whitman told an audience of about 1,000 in Stabler Arena at Lehigh University. “I would add environmental regulations to that.”

Even if Congress fails to pass climate-change legislation in the near future, Whitman said businesses better prepared for a new regulatory climate will gain a competitive advantage.

“They have something more to sell to the public,” Whitman said. “They have something more to talk about with their customers.”

The Republican addressed the Lehigh Valley chamber’s annual luncheon, visiting the region the same day as campaigning for New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie.

On the environment, Whitman said for now she expects a continued patchwork of state regulations combined with voluntary efforts by business to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are blamed for causing global warming.

By the time a comprehensive plan is enacted, Whitman said businesses will be better able to survive under tighter emissions standards, just as businesses survived after the establishment of the EPA and subsequent clean-air and clean-water legislation

“The old belief that environmental protection is inherently bad for business overlooks the incredible ability of the private sector to overcome challenges,” she said.

GLVCC President and CEO Tony Iannelli said Lehigh Valley businesses are more aware of environmental matters for bottom-line reasons.

“As the cost of energy is rising, they are more environmentally conscious,” Iannelli said. “As much as I would like to say it’s about doing the right thing, it’s also about doing the right thing economically.”

Whitman served as head of the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001-03 and governed New Jersey from 1994-2001. She is now president of the Whitman Strategy Group consultancy, which advises businesses, government, and organizations on dealing with environmental problems.

The chamber, which serves about 5,000 members in the Lehigh Valley and Phillipsburg area, also honored annual winners in six categories at the event.