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Beware the SEC's Creation of 'Natural Asset' Companies

December 01, 2023

To anyone who tracks the efforts of environmentalists, their policies often have an ulterior motive. They neither result in a better society nor do they produce better habitats. Their policy preferences also do not consider how using the land improves the land for man and wildlife. Instead, many environmentalists advocate for policies at the expense of farmers, miners, and others who create usable, tangible, societal benefits from the land. This often leaves observers to wonder: what are environmentalists really after?

The answer is power and money. It turns out, that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) are quietly working on a rule that may prove this ulterior motive.

On September 29, the SEC, at the request of the NYSE, proposed a rule that would create an entirely new type of company called a Natural Asset Company (NAC). NACs, according to the Proposed Rule, “hold the rights to ecological performance.” These companies would be given license to control lands, both public and private, and would be required not to conduct any “unsustainable activities, such as mining, that lead to the degradation of the ecosystems.”  In effect, this means that these companies would somehow seek to profit off the lands without using the lands. Whatever they do, it must be “sustainable.”

How might a company make control of land profitable while also not using the land? The method is admittedly confusing, perhaps intentionally. They profit from “ecological performance” such as “conservation, restoration, or sustainable management.” These NACs would quantify and monetize these natural outputs (such as air or water). The best comparison would be using the air we breathe as a cryptocurrency of sorts. And, these natural assets that collectively belong to all of us would now belong to corporations run by what many would call environmental special interests.

Another feature of these new companies is that the land belonging to sovereign nations and private landowners alike can be subject to the control of NACs. Sovereign nations, such as the United States Government, can provide their lands to private investors, including those outside the United States. China, for example, may be able to invest in an NAC and effectively be a stakeholder in our national parks. Russia could assume control of lands currently leased to produce oil and place them off limits for future natural resource development.

The Biden administration has already suggested that it would cede this power to the NACs. The Office of Science and Technology Policy has also created a method to track the values of nature and place those so-called natural assets onto the federal balance sheet. It described this effort as “the transition we need for sustainable growth and development, a stable climate, and a healthy planet.” The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are taking similar steps to facilitate the enrollment of our federal lands into NACs.

Private landowners would, possibly even involuntarily, also be ceding their control of land to NACs, who would in turn require them to use the land in a “sustainable” way. NACs would prevent the productive use of the land, which would hurt the landowners financially, but also reduce the supply of minerals, food, and other goods that come from the land.

Even the traditional methods of regulatory oversight have to change to make NACs possible. Traditional accounting standards would not be used to regulate NACs. Likely, this is because NACs would not withstand scrutiny under generally accepted accounting principles. Rather, a new accounting framework would be created by the Intrinsic Exchange Group (IEG). Not coincidentally, the NYSE is an investor in IEG, and would stand to profit off the IEG’s position as an accounting authority.

This effort would be a huge windfall for the federal government and the NACs. The government would create an entirely new revenue stream that would solely benefit the Davos-type crowd that gives the current administration support. Both Big Government and radical environmentalists stand to benefit. 

These efforts intentionally prioritize environmentalism over human flourishing. IEG admits that “producing these essential goods and services and managing resources wisely is as valuable, or perhaps even more valuable, than the food production.”

These gains are far from insignificant. IEG has stated that the NAC economy will be four times larger than today’s entire economy. Handing over the reins of an economy larger than what we have ever known effectively hands over power that large as well. 

Power and money. If this Proposed Rule is finalized, private investors who have neither America’s best interests nor the public’s economic well-being in mind, would be handed both. They would control our lands and profit from them at the same time. Handing rights to America’s greatest national treasures – along with the air we breathe – to wealthy special interests may seem like an extravagantly bizarre idea, but we’re now less than 45 days until it could be our reality.

This article was originally published by RealClearMarkets and made available via RealClearWire.
Margaret Byfield is the Executive Director of American Stewards of Liberty (ASL), a non-profit organization working to protect private property rights and the liberties they secure.
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