Blog: SEC’s not waiting around- POLITICO – POLITICO

SEC’S HEAD OF STEAM — The Securities and Exchange Commission just unveiled draft rules in March for how public companies should disclose their climate risks and emissions.

But the agency isn’t waiting for the final rule to begin asking hard questions, as Avery Ellfeldt reports for POLITICO’s E&E News.

Since last fall, the SEC has sent multiple rounds of comment letters to more than two dozen businesses asking for additional details — and data — on their climate risk exposures, plans and expenses.

Notably, many of the comments — which were sent to companies including Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Phillips 66 Co. and Amazon.com Inc. — didn’t just request additional disclosure. The SEC also asked companies to justify their own claims that certain information doesn’t need to be disclosed because it would be “immaterial” to their investors.

Other companies the SEC has been quizzing include global cruise company Royal Caribbean Cruises, resort company Las Vegas Sands Corp., Comcast Corp., Target Corp. and Discover Financial Services.

The letters don’t necessarily come as a surprise — former Commissioner Allison Herren Lee directed staff last year to start reviewing the extent to which companies are already complying with the SEC’s existing climate disclosure guidance, which hasn’t been updated since 2010.

But they do provide a valuable glimpse into how the agency under SEC Chair Gary Gensler is approaching the issue, even without a new, and far more expansive, climate disclosure requirement in place, said Jennifer Schulp, who directs financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute, a free-market think tank.

She said she sees the letters as a “prelude to tell companies ‘get your ducks in a row, because we’re coming on climate.’”

Read more from Avery here.

Join us Wednesday, May 18, for POLITICO’s second annual sustainability summit. We’ll explore the policies, strategies and innovations that can get the world to a sustainable future, and Lorraine will Politico holds its “2022 sustainability summit” focusing on “the transition to a sustainable future.”moderate a top-notch panel on ESG standard-setting. RSVP to attend or watch live.

GAME ON – It’s a balmy 86 degrees in Buffalo, where our editor Greg has decamped for a few days. Heat waves in cool areas are linked to more support for environmental policies, at least in Europe — any evidence for that in the U.S.? Let us know. And happy Friday!

Welcome to the Long Game, where we’re delivering the latest on efforts to shape our future. Tuesday through Friday, we’ve got data-driven storytelling, compelling interviews with industry and political leaders, and more news to keep you in the loop on sustainability.

Our team is sustainability editor Greg Mott, deputy editor Debra Kahn, reporters Lorraine Woellert and Catherine Boudreau and digital producer Jordan Wolman. Reach them at [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]

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NO FREE LUNCH — What’s our priority: Making electric vehicles? Avoiding overreliance on China? Not making potentially risky investments in conflict areas?

A good illustration of the tug of war between countervailing priorities: the Energy Department’s preliminary decision last month to loan $107 million to a Louisiana plant that makes battery components for Tesla, among other automakers.

As Jael Holzman reports for POLITICO’s E&E News, the material for the components is coming from a graphite mine in Mozambique, in an area close to an ISIS-linked insurgency.

It’s the first loan to a minerals project under DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, which was created by Congress in 2007. DOE says the plant will supply enough graphite anode material for about 2.5 million EVs by 2040. The plant and the mine are both owned by the Australian company Syrah Resources Ltd.

DOE’s loan program director, Jigar Shah, said the company produces “some of the best environmental, social and governance sort of reports in the mining world,” and the department was “able to validate the claims that the company is making” about the mine and the project.

Still, some experts worry about both the risk of the loan in the event the conflict spreads, and that if the mining doesn’t help the region, it could further sow distrust and extremism there.

“It’s a defining moment. More investment in Syrah means more can be done to address the discontent, or more can be done to contribute to it,” said Emilinah Namaganda, a researcher at Utrecht University in the Netherlands who studies the relationship between private land development and the fabric of local communities.

Read more from Jael here.

Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Holdings Inc. wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions on 15 dairy farms to half the industry average by the end of 2024, the company said Monday. If the pilot programs work, they’ll be expanded to other farms in the ice cream maker’s supply chain.

Cow burps are a major source of methane on dairy farms, and dairy ingredients account for more than half the company’s greenhouse gas emissions. The initiative is labeled Project Mootopia. (Note: If you haven’t seen “Zootopia”, we highly recommend it.)

Uber Technologies Inc. will conduct a third-party civil rights audit after reaching a deal with shareholder groups SOC Investment Group, As You Sow, and Friends Fiduciary. The deal, announced Monday, is the latest in a successful civil-rights push that has been mounting since the murder of George Floyd.  

Deutsche Post DHL Group will deploy as many as 44 electric-powered Volvo trucks in Europe, a move that the companies say will eliminate 600 tons of carbon emissions and save nearly 225,000 liters of diesel fuel.

Did you know? Amazon has thousands of electric delivery vans and has ordered 100,000 from EV-maker Rivian. By 2030, all new vehicle purchases at FedEx will be electric. UPS has ordered 10,000 electric vans from EV company Arrival. H/t RMI.

VICTORY IN VIRGINIA — A strong majority of Dominion Energy Inc. investors on Wednesday backed a resolution calling on the utility to reevaluate its natural gas investments in light of climate change, Corbin Hiar reports for POLITICO’s E&E News.

It’s a rare win for sustainable investment advocates — one of only a few climate-related proposals at a major publicly traded company in the United States that have passed this year. It’s also the first shareholder resolution of any kind at Dominion to win a majority of votes since at least 2006.

The nonbinding resolution called for Dominion to issue a report “describing how it is responding to the risk of stranded assets of planned natural gas based infrastructure and assets as the global response to climate change intensifies.” It passed with 75.2 percent support. Another resolution, calling on Dominion to adopt “medium-term targets” for reducing its so-called Scope 3 emissions, failed with 15.6 percent support.

Read more from Corbin here.

— The House is digging into USPS’ plans to buy mostly non-electric vehicles.

— California regulators rejected a desalination plant that’s been on the drawing board for 20 years, citing cost and impact on marine life.

Norway’s $1.2 trillion oil fund is campaigning against executive pay packages — in the U.S. in particular — on the grounds of “corporate greed” and “mediocre performance.”

California’s battle against catastrophic wildfires is pulling money from one of its key programs to fight climate change, with the total expected to soon hit $1.9 billion.

Events are listed in Eastern Time

May 16 —  The Woodrow Wilson Center holds a discussion on plastic pollution. 9 a.m.

May 17 —  The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago will host a conversation on the outlook for oil markets and its implications for the overall fight against climate change. 4:30 p.m.

May 18 — Politico holds its “2022 sustainability summit” focusing on “the transition to a sustainable future.” 10 a.m.

May 18 — Ernst & Young will host a conversation with Al Monaco, President and CEO of Enbridge Inc., and The Honourable Brian Tobin, Vice-Chair, BMO Financial Group on Canada’s role to advance the energy transition and contribute to energy security. 11:45 a.m.

May 18 — The U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis meets to discuss building a resilient food supply chain. 2:30 p.m.

May 19 — The Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions discusses the SEC climate disclosure rule. 3 p.m.

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