Energy

California’s Head Regulator Demands Insurance Companies Divest From Coal

The head of California’s insurance commission demanded insurance companies divest their coal assets Sunday and mandated they disclose all coal company holdings.

“The movement away from coal and the rest of the carbon economy poses a potential financial risk to insurance companies investing in coal and the carbon economy,” California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said.

The state’s regulators are the first in the U.S. to ask insurance companies to declare war on coal through divestment. Jones is also the first insurance regulator to mandate companies disclose their coal investments.

Insurance companies in California collect $259 billion in premiums annually, making the state’s insurance industry the largest market in the United States, according to the Insurance Commission.

California’s move to ensnare coal into a regulatory morass comes on the heels of the Obama administration’s continued battle with the coal industry.

President Barack Obama announced earlier this month a move to temporarily block coal companies from setting up shop on federal lands until they undergo a battery of tests and reviews meant to determine coal’s effect on global warming.

The president’s regulations on coal, as well as an energy market that continues to move steadily toward fuel sources like natural gas, are hammering the coal industry once seen as a staple in American commerce.

Ten years ago coal produced 50 percent of the nation’s power supply, but now the coal industry only accounts for 39 percent, according to the U.S. Energy and Information Administration.

The stiff regulations and shifting markets are toppling coal companies left and right, leading to many of the county’s biggest coal producers to opt for bankruptcy.

America’s second largest US coal producer — Missouri-based Arch Coal — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month in an effort to cut $4.5 billion in debt from its spreadsheets.

(NOW CHECK OUT: Down In The Hole: A Look At The People And Way Of Life Suffering Under Washington’s Plan For Coal)

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