FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 22, 2017
Today, fourteen environmental organizations submitted a letter to members of the California state senate and assembly to oppose amendments that have been added to an otherwise positive bill. The addition of these amendments that would cripple the ability of California’s Insurance Commissioner to regulate responsibly on climate make Senate Bill 488 (SB488) untenable, the groups say.
In January 2016, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones launched the Climate Risk Carbon Initiative (CRCI), requiring insurers writing $100 million or more in premiums within the state of California to disclose their investments in fossil fuel companies and electric utilities that burn fossil fuels. The Initiative also asks insurers to voluntarily divest from, and halt new investment in, thermal coal companies. The information collected from insurance companies is hosted on the Insurance Commissioner’s website.
New regulations, advances in technology, changing consumer preferences, and the physical impacts of climate change all threaten the value and viability of fossil fuel company business models, leaving those invested in such companies vulnerable to considerable financial risk. The CRCI, and the transparency it requires, is critical to ensuring that California insurance companies have the funds to pay liabilities on the insurance contracts they write, and that the commissioner can adequately regulate their behavior to protect the public interest.
The Amendments to SB488 (Bradford) would undermine the commissioner’s authority to issue the kind of data calls and surveys upon which the CRCI is built. Moreover, these amendments would permanently encumber the ability of any future commissioner to issue data calls on any matter of public concern that doesn’t meet the narrow and specific criteria delineated in these amendments. Allowing this bill to pass in this form would decrease necessary financial transparency while undermining the regulatory authority of a key public official.
California law already requires insurers writing $100,000,000 or more in premiums in the state to report on its efforts to secure minority, women, and disabled veteran owned businesses as suppliers. SB488, as originally introduced by Senator Steven Bradford, would add veteran and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) owned businesses to these existing requirements, further increasing transparency and providing opportunity for underserved communities.
The Center for International Environmental Law, along with thirteen other environmental organizations, call on the elected leaders of California to reject the hostile amendments and restore SB488 (Bradford) to the positive, inclusive, progressive bill it was and should be.
Steven Feit, Staff Attorney, CIEL: sfeit (at) ciel.org