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The SEC Climate Fight Enters a New Round

Now it’s in the courts.

The SEC building.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

The legal battle over the Securities and Exchange Commission’s new rule on climate-related disclosure has begun. On Thursday, the Commission issued a pause on the rule, which sets standards for publicly-owned companies to report their exposure to climate-related risks like extreme weather or future regulations in their annual filings.

The rule finalized in early March was significantly weaker than what the Commission had originally proposed in 2022. Rather than make disclosure mandatory, the regulations say that companies only have to report certain types of information, such as their greenhouse gas emissions, if they deem the information “material.” Despite this, the decision invited swift backlash from all corners, including from the energy industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Republican states, and environmental groups.

Between March 6, the day the rules were finalized, and March 14, at least nine petitions were filed in multiple courts of appeals seeking review of the final rules. Liberty Energy Inc. and Nomad Proppant Services, two oilfield service companies, filed a motion seeking a stay pending judicial review. The petitions were later consolidated for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, where the Chamber of Commerce and several other business groups also filed a motion seeking a stay. Now, the Commission has decided to accede to the request and pause the rules as the court reviews the petitions.

“In issuing a stay, the Commission is not departing from its view that the Final Rules are consistent with applicable law,” the order said. “Thus, the Commission will continue vigorously defending the Final Rules’ validity in court.”

The rules were not set to go into effect until 2026, so it remains to be seen whether or by how much the legal challenges will delay implementation. Margaret Farrell, the chair of the securities law group at the firm Hinckley Allen told the Wall Street Journal that she didn’t think the legal challenges would “fundamentally change” the direction things are heading in. “There is an obligation, which the SEC underscored a few years back, to consider the impact of climate change and climate events on the business,” she said, “regardless of the new rule.”

Emily Pontecorvo profile image

Emily Pontecorvo

Emily is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Previously she was a staff writer at the nonprofit climate journalism outlet Grist, where she covered all aspects of decarbonization, from clean energy to electrified buildings to carbon dioxide removal.


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