Gordon joins criticism of climate rule

CASPER — Gov. Mark Gordon and 15 other Republican governors sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Tuesday opposing a proposed rule that would require publicly traded companies to report climate-related data to investors. 

The modified standards were announced just over two months ago by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), an independent federal agency tasked with protecting investors from market manipulation. They would direct public companies to release information about anticipated risks to business, operations and finances due to climate change. 

And they would mandate that all public companies disclose the greenhouse gas emissions produced through company activities and electricity consumption, with the largest companies also publishing indirect emissions from unowned sources like transportation, leased assets and employee travel. 

The change is intended to “pro- vide investors with consistent, comparable, and decision-useful information ... and it would provide consistent and clear reporting obligations for issuers,” SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in a March statement. The governors’ letter was addressed to Gensler as well as Biden.

“Investors need reliable in- formation about climate risks to make informed investment decisions,” Gensler added. The proposal has been praised by environmental groups, progressive think tank Center for American Progress and U.N.-backed advocacy organization Principles for Responsible Investment.

But Gordon and the other governors want climate disclosures to remain voluntary — dictated by the market, not regulators. Some U.S. companies, including Microsoft and Apple, already publish substantial climate data. The letter’s signatories feel that requiring everybody to do so would “penalize companies involved in traditional energy development.” 

According to the SEC, the rule would standardize the existing patchwork of climate and emissions reporting, expanding access to key information while benefiting both companies and investors. 

The letter argues, however, that models of climate change aren’t reliable enough for the rule to work as intended (a position disputed by climate scientists), and the agency instead overstepped its bounds “by injecting subjective political judgments on climate policy into corporate disclosures, in a manner calculated to harm the states that provide for America’s energy security.” 

Other Biden administration policies, including a more than year-long pause on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands, have angered Wyoming and other states that depend economically on fossil fuel extraction. The climate disclosure rule adds to the Biden administration’s “misguided agenda” on fossil fuels, the letter says.

The SEC has extended the public comment period for the proposed rule through June 17, citing “significant interest from a wide breadth of investors, issuers, market participants, and other stakeholders.”