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Proposal plucked: NYSE withdraws ‘natural asset company’ rule change; Rapp, Hutchinson detail objection

Times Observer file photos Concerns regarding the future of the Allegheny National Forest stood at the heart of Rep. Kathy Rapp and Sen. Scott Hutchinson’s letter to the Security and Exchange Commission regarding a proposal to create “natural asset companies.” The New York Stock Exchange withdrew the proposal on Wednesday.

The recent flap over “natural asset companies” is on hold.

There had been intense opposition to the proposal across the country to the rule proposed by the New York Stock Exchange with both the City of Warren and Warren County School District signing off on letters in opposition.

A notice from the Securities and Exchange Commission stated that the proposed rule change was withdrawn by the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

Among the opposition was Rep. Kathy Rapp and Sen. Scott Hutcbinson, who sent a joint letter to the SEC outlining their opposition.

“This proposed rule, should it be allowed to become effective, would allow a very small, elite group of wealthy individuals and organizations – including foreign interests – who want to control the land and resources of the U.S,” Hutchinson said.

“Our government agencies should not offer the management of American land and resources to these entities for a price, allowing them to profit from it. This is unethical, illegal, and will open our nation to the risks of foreign control and interference.”

“A NAC could obtain rights to U.S. land and could then prevent that land from being used for the responsible development of natural resources, including fossil fuel extraction, mining, most logging and large-scale farming; existing rules prohibit NACs from doing such things,” the legislators say in a joint release.

“Turning over land management control to NACs and their investors, leaving local stakeholders, landowners, and land managers out of the decision-making process, is not only impractical, but violates standing law and policy,” they claim. “Only Congress and state legislatures can assign management authority for their public lands. This rule change would, essentially, allow NACs and their investors – and nothing prevents foreign entities from being investors – to circumvent the legislative process and the rights of all American citizens.”

Rapp and Hutchinson state that these companies would “not be sensitive to, or even be aware of, the unique qualities of the local communities in and around the ANF or the outsized impacts the NAC’s policies will have on those communities.

“They will operate with generic ideas of ‘sustainable’ use on lands they do not own, lands with needs they don’t understand and lands they aren’t likely to use or visit.”

They cite forest fires as one such example of a national problem that is not a problem on the ANF.

“Ironically, the greatest threat identified by ANF management is the lack of young forest–meaning that more harvesting of older trees is necessary to yield a healthier forest and ecosystem,” they say. “We’ve seen what has happened in other forests that have been improperly managed, with rampant forest fires plaguing many regions of our nation. We do not need to accelerate such problems.”

They further claim that subsurface rights on the ANF would be threatened “along with surface minerals, grazing, water use, food production, firewood permits, hunting and fishing, recreation…any use that NACs could control.

“Local tax revenues from these uses of the land would also be jeopardized by allowing private ownership by a NAC, a situation that could devastate many communities.”

“This is just another under-the-radar attempt by radical environmentalists to impose their progressive agenda on the good people of Northwest Pennsylvania,” Rapp said. “If you want to speak with those who truly care about the health of the Allegheny National Forest, who know its impacts on the local economy, and want to see it thrive, start with your neighbors, those in your congregation and at your local supermarket.

“We cannot continue allowing the liberal elites and wealthy activists to run roughshod over our communities.”

“Natural Asset Companies (NACs) are fundamentally different from traditional companies because they are chartered to protect, restore, and grow the natural assets under their management to foster healthy ecosystems,” according to the New York Stock Exchange.

The NYSE said that the move was intended to “address the large and complex challenges of climate change and the transition to a more sustainable economy.”

A December article by Politico detailed that the proposal was before the SEC.

“To qualify as an NAC, a company would need to document how it is improving the lands in its portfolio,” Politico reported. “The companies would be responsible for the ‘conservation, restoration, or sustainable management’ of those lands, such as improving wildlife habitat or ensuring clean air.”

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