While the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision on Roe v. Wade has garnered massive media and public attention, another recent action by the court could have significant positive impact for the future of the American economy.
The court recently ruled that the Environment Protection Agency lacks the legal authority to regulate greenhouse gases outside its congressional mandate.
Regulatory overreach has become chronic and highly damaging. These agencies have imposed costly rules based on the flimsiest of pretext but have the force of law. Now these commissions must first have explicit authority from Congress before making a major move. In this instance, the EPA was shutting down electricity generating plants that relied on fossil fuels.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey – who spearheaded the legal challenge – applauded the ruling. But Morrisey has beefs with other federal agencies and their mission creep to advance a damaging climate agenda. That’s why he is leading the fight against a brazen, power-grabbing effort by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to force companies to calculate their own greenhouse gas emissions and – get this – those of their suppliers and vendors.
Morrisey and leaders from 23 other states have authored a comment letter arguing that the SEC rule is not only overly burdensome, but casts the SEC into the utterly inappropriate role of climate regulator.
To be clear, SEC Chairman Gary Gensler has serious ambitions, for bigger things – the White House someday? – meaning he’d like nothing more than to make his mark in the climate change fight, a central focus of the Biden administration and the voting left. The problem? Gensler’s proposed rule would impose huge burdens of time and money on American businesses, particularly smaller ones, endangering our return from the current malaise.
At an astounding 500 pages – yes, 500 pages – the proposed SEC rule, called Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors, would levy a number of new mandates on publicly-traded businesses.
If passed, the rule would require disclosure of detailed information on all things climate-related. This would include details and analysis of greenhouse gas emissions, environmental risks, and what each company is doing to combat climate change and how often they are discussing it. This also includes emissions information about companies who serve as suppliers and vendors.
For most businesses, calculating emissions is no easy task. The SEC itself admits the proposed rule will increase the overall cost of disclosure and compliance for companies by up to $10.2 billion per year. This would exceed the costs for all other SEC rules combined, no doubt compelling some companies to simply go private rather than endure the cost and complication of compliance.
The rule also requires companies to evaluate the risks to facilities of locating in climate-exposed areas, a definition that conceivably would make vast parts of the U.S. seemly unsuitable for new investment. In a year when "U.S. household wealth has fallen by $5 trillion to $8 trillion," a new threat to investment and jobs is the last thing we need.
Plus, how does the new rule possibly benefit investors, which is why lawmakers created the SEC in the first place?
It bears stating that the SEC does not quantify any supposed benefits for the investing public. If the SEC really wanted to better educate and protect investors, it would not make much sense to saddle those same investors with reports full of new indirect, immaterial data that has little or nothing to do with a company’s future economic prospects.
Those realities are why a group of former SEC officials, including former SEC chairmen Richard Breeden and Harvey Pitt and former SEC commissioners Paul Atkins, Philip Lochner and Richard Roberts, have all agreed that the proposed rule will dilute company records with politics.
They expressed those concerns in a comment letter in June that argued the SEC’s proposed rule would provide "financially immaterial information" to investors . It will "fail in many cases to provide investors any basis for a reasonable prediction about expenses that companies will face from future statutory, regulatory and public opinion changes."
In addition, these former SEC officials argue that the SEC lacks the kind of rulemaking powers it seeks to wield by becoming a de facto environmental regulator.
The SEC’s proposal is a reckless. It does nothing to help investors. Junk it!