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Divestment Proposal Pits Coal States Against California

Jeff Young

Political leaders in West Virginia and Kentucky are joining a coalition of states threatening to sue California over a program the state is pushing that would drop investments in coal.

This week the attorney general of West Virginia joined 11 other Republican attorneys general and the governor of Kentucky in signinga letter to the commissioner of the California Department of Insurance. The department wants any insurance companies licensed in California todivest from fossil fuels – especially coal. Many of the companies licensed in California are also licensed in many other states throughout the U.S.

West Virginia’s Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the California Insurance Department’s “Climate Risk Carbon Initiative” is “an attempt by the insurance commissioner of one state to regulate the energy sector of a nation.”

The California program is voluntary but companies that do and do not divest will be publicly identified.

This public pressure prompted Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter to threaten legal action. Hunter said the initiative is a “misguided” attempt at public shaming, promoting information that is “misleading” and “alarmist.”

California Commissioner David Jones is, so far, undeterred. He said it’s his duty to make sure insurers are addressing risks related to climate change. 

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