Insurer vote hits climate activism hard
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KAI RYSSDAL: While Congress tries to figure out what to do about its energy and climate change bills, some regulators have been trying to change things on their own. Last year, state insurance commissioners decided insurance companies had to disclose what global warming might mean for their profits and losses. A year of lobbying by those insurance companies later, and the commissioners have changed their minds.
Sarah Gardner reports now from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk.
Sarah Gardner: The reporting rule is primarily aimed at property insurers, the companies that would have to foot the bill for fiercer storms and wild fires scientists predict from global warming. But it also includes health and life insurers that might face more claims from diseases a warmer climate could bring. For years, activists had pushed insurers to publicly report on their exposure to global warming. But the commissioners voted to keep the information private.
Andrew Logan is with CERES, a coalition of investors and environmentalists.
Andrew Logan: You know, I think it really guts it of all impact. So certainly from our perspective, it was surprising and disappointing.
South Carolina's insurance commissioner Scott Richardson helped lead the revolt. He feared the reports would be misused by activists.
Scott Richardson: You know, this state's a green state, that state isn't, based on this survey. The NAIC isn't the environmental police for insurance companies and that's what this report was turning into, I think.
That's the National Association for Insurance Commissioners, the group that developed the controversial reporting rule. Mike Kreidler, the insurance commissioner for Washington state, believes politics played a role in weakening the regulation as well.
Mike Kreidler: This is an election year, and you have some movement among conservatives, such as the Tea Baggers that are now essentially in denial of climate change.
Kreidler believes that makes it harder for regulators from conservative states to endorse any regulations that deal with global warming. But he says he can still require insurers in his own state to file climate reports and he'll share them with the public.
I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.