On December 19, 2011, Fox News reported that “EPA Ponders Expanded Regulatory Power In Name of 'Sustainable Development'”. The report links current EPA thinking on sustainable development with the United Nations’ Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development and an August, 2011 National Academy of Sciences study entitled “Sustainability and the U.S. EPA.”
What is the USEPA’s view of sustainability?
Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.
Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.
And what is USEPA doing about it? In a sentence from the previous link:
Today EPA aims to make sustainability the next level of environmental protection by drawing on advances in science and technology to protect human health and the environment, and promoting innovative green business practices.
Are there patents covering sustainable development?
Here’s one. Patent number 7,346,572, “Brownfields investing”, was issued on March 18, 2008 to Cheryl Hoffman (Golden, CO) and assigned to CLHSM, LLC (Denver, CO). Brownfields is the term used for former industrial or commercial sites where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination.
The Hoffman invention is classified as 705/37 in the US Patent Classification system. Patents that claim trading, matching, or bidding within a finance framework are found here — this is a business method patent. It is found within the Industry category of patentECO’s clean technology patent ecosystem.
Claim 1 states:
A method for managing a Brownfields fund, comprising:
storing in a computer system information relating to the Brownfields fund;
accepting investor capital from at least one investor into the Brownfields fund;
storing information in the computer system relating to the at least one investor, the stored information including investor identification information, investment amounts, and terms of investments;
storing information in the computer system concerning an entity and a Brownfields project, the entity having an ownership interest in the Brownfields;
approving the entity and the Brownfields project for financing with investment capital from the Brownfields fund according to select criteria using the information stored in the computer system concerning the entity and the Brownfields project;
and providing the investment capital from the Brownfields fund to the approved entity to at least partially finance the approved Brownfields project without taking any ownership interest in the approved Brownfields project, the approved entity being provided the investment capital using at least some of the investor capital from the at least one investor.
According to the inventor, “contaminated properties have been considered a current and future liability to their owners (current and future), and to the communities in which they are located. The market value of real property is directly affected by contamination and pollution. Valuation of real property is negatively effected by risks that are not quantifiable in terms of time and/or money. Valuation affects decision making during cleanup of contaminated property, and, likewise, decision making during remediation affects valuation, of the contaminated property and surrounding properties. The result has been that many of these properties are idle and abandoned in spite of their potential value.”
This invention provides a system and method for investing in brownfields-related projects capable of supporting all aspects of a remediation/development/redevelopment project, while shielding investors from environmental liability.
We tend to think of clean technology as things, when in fact, it includes processes and methods of doing business in ways that use less material and/or energy, minimize waste, or lessen negative environmental consequences. Certainly, financing inventions that provide diminished risk of investing in contaminated properties meets this criterion.