Republicans probe Biden admin’s climate overreach into consumer insurance
EXCLUSIVE: Republican lawmakers on a key House Financial Services Committee panel are probing the Biden administration’s efforts to impose its climate agenda on insurance companies.
In a letter Friday to Federal Insurance Office (FIO) Director Steven Seitz, every Republican member of the House and Insurance Subcommittee, led by Chairman Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, expressed concern about the agency’s recent actions to collect climate-related data from property and casualty insurers.
The lawmakers argued such actions were limited to state insurance regulators, not the FIO which is a subagency of the Treasury Department. The letter to Seitz also noted that while the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 authorizes the agency to collect certain data, it limits such actions to traditional regulation and mandates consultation with state insurance regulators.
“Climate alarmists and activists are abusing the Federal Insurance Office by overstepping state regulators to collect climate data,” Davidson told Fox News Digital in a statement. “The FIO’s lack of good faith to coordinate with state insurance regulators sets a dangerous precedent that could ultimately undermine Congress’s intent under the Dodd-Frank consumer protection law.”
According to the Cornell Legal Information Institute, the Dodd-Frank Act established the FIO to monitor the U.S. insurance industry to identify issues or gaps that could result in crises. However, the statute specifically requires the office to “consult with the states regarding insurance matters of national or international importance.”
Davidson and his fellow Republican subcommittee members wrote in their letter that the FIO’s recent actions deviate from “the letter and spirit of Dodd-Frank.”
“Requiring FIO to coordinate with state insurance regulators is critical to ensuring that FIO can conduct relevant activities to achieve its goals while also maintaining the proven state-based regulation of insurance,” they wrote. “However, we believe that FIO has knowingly sidestepped this requirement to advance its own agenda.”
In August 2021, the FIO released a request for information on a proposal to obtain climate-related financial risk data from the insurance sector. Then, in October, the FIO issued a proposed data collection, asking for public comments by the middle of December. The action would require 213 insurance companies to share data from every U.S. zip code.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said at the time that the action was “an important step in determining how Americans are being affected by the increasing costs of climate change.” She noted the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian in Florida as an example of why the agency needed to move forward with the action.
However, while the action was lauded by left-wing groups like Center for American Progress and Public Citizen, it was blasted by both the insurance industry and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), a group representing state regulators.
“As the primary regulators of this sector, state insurance regulators are on the frontlines of natural catastrophe preparedness and response, protecting policyholders and maintaining well-functioning insurance markets,” NAIC officials wrote to the Treasury Department in November. “State insurance regulators, through the NAIC, have had a climate-specific working group for more than a decade.”
“It is unclear how FIO will use the data they intend to collect, and it is likely that any analysis will be misinterpreted and produce fallacious results in trying to identify climate risk,” they continued. “Treasury is requesting property insurance market data at a granular level, but it is unclear how that data will be married with other information to illustrate climate risk specifically.”
In addition to Davidson, Reps. Bill Posey, R-Fla., Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., Ralph Norman, R-S.C., Scott Fitzgerald, R-Wisc., Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y., Mike Flood, R-Neb., Michael Lawler, R-N.Y., Monica De La Cruz, R-Texas, and Erin Houchin, R-Ind., signed the letter to Seitz.
The FIO didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.