Democrat Joe Manchin opposes SEC’s climate proposal

The senator says the proposed rule unfairly targets fossil-fuel companies

The SEC has so far received dozens of public comments on its proposed climate-disclosure rule for public issuers — and at least one of those not in favor of the proposal is a Democratic member of Congress.

On Monday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) sent a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission chair Gary Gensler, expressing concern that the proposal would unfairly burden carbon-intensive energy companies.

“[T]he most concerning piece of the proposed rule is what appears to be the targeting of our nation’s fossil fuel companies. Not only will these companies face heightened reporting requirements on account of their operations, but they will also be subjected to additional scrutiny for the Scope 3 emission disclosures of other companies that utilize their services and products,” Manchin’s letter stated. “Furthermore, accelerated and large accelerated filers would be required to take the additional step of obtaining certification from a third-party to attest to the accuracy of the disclosures.”

The need for a rule focused on mandatory climate-risk reporting is “seemingly duplicative,” Manchin wrote, as many public companies already provide some sustainability reporting for their investors. However, there’s a wide variance in how much data companies disclose around their climate risks and there’s little consistency in how that information is provided to shareholders, which the SEC has argued makes it necessary to have standards.

In opposing the proposed rule, Manchin is aligned with congressional Republicans, who for months have been warning the regulator about their stance against it.

The issue is an important one for Manchin, who has pressed for fossil-fuel-friendly policy in recent bill packages.

The SEC moved forward with the proposed rule March 21 by a vote of 3-1, with the commission’s lone conservative, Hester Peirce, opposing it. The regulator is now in the middle of a 60-day public-comment period and could vote to finalize a version of the proposed rule afterward.