Last week Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-TX) and a dozen co-sponsors introduced the Stopping Excessive Climate Reporting Act (H.R.7355) to prevent the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from imposing on U.S. corporations a burdensome new disclosure mandate related to greenhouse gases, energy use, and other climate related topics. The SEC’s recent foray into environmental regulation is consistent with President Biden’s proclaimed “whole of government” approach to climate policy, in which agencies and departments, including those with no environmental mandate, are expected to put climate change at the center of their agendas. Other federal financial agencies have also recently advanced significant climate-themed projects, including the U.S. Treasury Department, Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
In a press release issued last week, Rep. Van Duyne described her bill as a response to “Biden’s green new regulation tyranny,” a reference to the ambitious agenda of the Green New Deal (GND), famously sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and endorsed by public figures ranging from Apple board member Al Gore and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to new age guru Marianne Williamson and disgraced former New York governor Andrew Cuomo. The climate policy goals of the GND itself are far outside the realm of political possibility in the present Congress, but efforts like the SEC’s current climate disclosure proposal are effectively a backdoor effort to implement GND-style rules without the transparency and democratic accountability that congressional legislation would entail.
The legislation, which is bracingly short—a welcome development in an era of multi-thousand page omnibus bills—would simply restrict the SEC from requiring disclosure of information about greenhouse gas emissions. This would not stop any company from disclosing information about its own emissions or climate plans or from complying with current SEC guidance on climate data (which dates from 2010). If a corporation’s energy use is financially material, it should be acknowledging that already. The Van Duyne bill would simply stop the SEC from requiring climate disclosure when it isn’t material. That’s a common-sense approach that shouldn’t require an act on Congress—but apparently now does.
The SEC’s climate disclosure proposal was unveiled on March 21 and the public has until May 20 to file comments. I encourage everyone interested in the issue to file their own comment letter. For background on the rule and its flaws, see SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce’s bold dissenting statement at the time the proposal was approved and my own recent article for National Review reinforcing Peirce’s concerns.