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ESG Hound Sells Out
Wow, what a journey.
I had a good thing going last year. I was slowly building my readership, writing about things I wanted to write about. I made some great new connections in several industries. Then, in late September, SpaceX had to go and mess it all up. I spent the next six months documenting all the ways in which the company subverted environmental law and regulatory norms regarding their launch site in South Texas.
The FAA went ahead and approved the NEPA action via a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) last month, clearing the way for launches in the near future, pending any legal fights (which are absolutely coming). The FONSI included required mitigations to remain below "significant" environmental impacts, which is essentially a bunch of stuff the FAA and SpaceX are required to do prior to and during the rocket testing process.
Do I think the process was and is still capricious, arbitrary, and represented a dereliction of duty from regulators? Heck yeah I do. But here's the thing: the thrust of my writing largely centered around that exact premise. Elon Musk has a long and storied history of getting sweetheart deals and then wholly ignoring settled terms and conditions. I expect no different here.
All that said, I'm personally pleased with some of the outcome. Despite rhetoric on Twitter and Reddit, my main gripe with the plans for SpaceX in Boca Chica always centered on the infrastructure stuff. Look at my first 12 posts on the topic. The gas processing plant, the 250 megawatt power plant, the LNG unit, the desalinator unit. All of that stuff is gone from SpaceX's plans. Gutted. I won't take credit for it because lots of agencies did good work in the background to try to scale back operations. But I've received so many emails and calls from people connected to local advocacy groups and regulatory agencies thanking me for highlighting the issues I did. I'll always be proud of that.
There are so many interesting wrinkles regarding the Starbase site that have to be ironed out. I tweet about them on some frequency, so give this old dog a follow on the bird site.
But it's time to move on. I refuse to be just an Elon Musk blogger. I wanted to write about greenwashing, bad corporate behavior, and social issues that keep popping up in markets and throughout industry.
Before the SpaceX saga, hundreds of subscribers (SUBZ) enjoyed my investigative work on biofuels, water rights and bitcoin. Some delighted in my "Ridiculous ESG rating of the week" segment. I've now got a subscriber list in the THOUSANDS and I want to reach out to you on new and exciting topics as I come across them.
In the past few months, "ESG" has become a dirty word with right-wing culture warriors, tech bro libertarians and other cranks who want to blame ESG, both the investment philosophy and disclosure standards, for High Gas Prices, Inflation, the War in Ukraine, Chinese war and the contents of Hunter Biden's Laptop.
It's nonsense, of course. I have lots of problems with how ESG is discussed and implemented, but it's not some communist plot to take your God-given freedoms. Oil companies were, after all, some of the earliest and most enthusiastic adopters of the disclosure philosophy.
Where does that leave me?
I'm going back to weekly ESG Roundup posts since there's so much interesting stuff going on in the space. Once a week, you'll get a free newsletter delivered to your email box. It'll have a Ridiculous ESG rating, plus a news story and mini analysis from each ESG subcomponent (Environmental, Social, Governance). I'll also throw in a Starbase/Musk legal update since everyone's favorite billionaire can't stop making himself a walking billboard for why ESG might actually be a good thing.
You'll also see occasional investigations from me for stories I think I have a unique and interesting angle well suited to my skills and background.
Open Your Wallets
The other announcement I have is that I'm selling out. Going paid. Becoming "The Man."
A few months ago, a friend of mine who works as an analyst for a hedge fund reached out to me. He was looking into potential regulatory risks and legal issues involving Ethylene Oxide (EO) at medical sterilization facilities. EO is a highly toxic carcinogen and is tightly regulated. Within 30 minutes, I was able to procure EPA guidance on Enforcement measures. I succinctly summarized the impacts of the guidance since I've been both a regulator and a regulated entity for these types of orders myself.
My analyst friend was struggling to identify the number of potentially impacted facilities that handled EO since the SEC filings and property records were unclear and/or contradictory. I knew that EO is regulated under EPA's Risk Management Program (RMP), has a storage reporting threshold of 10,000 pounds on the List of Lists, and that larger facilities handling EO would be required to have EPA RMP ID numbers. So, I pulled data from EPA's ECHO database, filtered by NAICS code, and eliminated sites that had expired RMP IDs (permanently closed).
I had an "aha" moment.
I enjoy writing about interesting conclusions I discover through research. But the simple fact of the matter is that most research I do doesn't lead to something I can publish. Lots of times, the research proves that the narrative of a company or entity is mostly correct. I have dozens of spreadsheets and outlines from research I've done in the past few years simply sitting in a folder on my computer.
My market value comes not from my good looks or excellent prose but rather from the Process of How I do my research. My analyst friend wasn't billed for my work and I'm ok with that. It was something I do intuitively. But he saved hours of time and potential consulting fees for something I can do with ease.
I want to teach YOU how to do research. How to comb through government records, file FOIAs, and apply engineering and regulatory concepts to questions that come up all the time in due diligence and equity research.
In the coming weeks, I'll post more about the offering. It's still a work in progress. If you work for an NGO, Credit Agency, Research Firm, Hedge Fund or other interested party, please reach out to me at ESGHound@gmail.com. I'll be offering early access to people who have followed me for some time. Ideally, this would be something I could pursue full-time if I do it right.
Stay tuned and once again, thanks for reading.
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