Several state officials are urging the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under the Biden administration to abandon a proposed land transfer law. The regulation, if approved, would convert publicly owned land into support for a novel financial instrument. These officials argue that such a move poses a potential threat to national security and raises concerns about the viability of the financial product.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) disclosed on December 21, 2023, that the New York Stock Exchange had submitted a modification to the rules, seeking approval to list Natural Asset Companies (NACs) on the exchange. According to the proposal, NACs would be entities dedicated to actively overseeing, preserving, restoring, and enhancing the value of natural assets, including their contribution to ecosystem services.
The proposal specifically defines ecosystem services as elements such as biodiversity, clean water, and the absorption of carbon from the atmosphere, as exemplified by tree growth.
A group of thirty state officials, including state auditors, treasurers, and comptrollers, has penned a letter to the SEC, strongly advising against approving the proposal. Their primary concern is that the initiative appears to seek financial gain from activities not tied to economic transactions.
In simpler terms, if a Natural Asset Company (NAC) owns a forest that captures carbon as its trees grow, it performs a valuable ecosystem service without engaging in traditional buying or selling activities to generate revenue. If the NAC’s stock price rises on the NYSE, increasing its overall value, there would be no underlying economic rationale for that appreciation. In essence, the officials view this as a concept prone to fueling financial bubbles.
The officials additionally highlighted that the proposal, through the sale of NAC stocks, could provide an avenue for foreign investors, potentially from adversarial nations, to negatively impact the US economy. They emphasized that if NACs acquire land, it might not be utilized for productive purposes, such as agricultural activities. As an illustration, the Chinese government could undermine US energy security by acquiring land in oil-rich regions and transforming it into an NAC, thereby hindering drilling operations.
Adam Crum, the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Revenue and a signatory to the letter addressed to the SEC, expressed that the proposal could have severe repercussions for rural Americans. The House Committee on Natural Resources has also intervened, expressing profound apprehension about the potential consequences in its own communication to the SEC.
It appears that numerous officials and elected representatives are recognizing the potential harm inherent in this proposal. The challenge now lies in persuading the Biden administration to set aside its strong focus on environmental issues and to genuinely consider these apprehensions.