NU Online News Service, Jan.29, 3:00 p.m. EST
Indiana's Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels ordered his state's insurance department not to participate in a National Association of Insurance Commissioners climate risk survey, one official said.
Another official with the Indiana State Insurance Department said later that the governor was only supporting the existing policy of that agency.
The state's action was revealed in a discussion that took place before an NAIC task force unit voted to approve a cover letter and format for the survey, which will go to insurers writing $500 million or more in premium. Later, another Indiana official said the decision was made by the department, but the governor supported it.
At that same conference call session, Alabama said it also may not require insurers based there to fill out the survey.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario, chairman of NAIC's Climate Change and Global Warming (EX) Task Force, said NAIC has been in discussion with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which voted Wednesday to require corporate filings to include information on the business impact of climate change and the results of regulations curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr. Ario remarked that "the SEC basically followed our lead" and there would be overlap in the information being sought by the two organizations.
The overall concept of the NAIC's survey was approved by the main body in March of last year. It would be sent out to the largest insurer in a business group by the state where that operation is domiciled--if the state chose to do so.
Indiana Chief Deputy Insurance Commissioner John Kissling, who revealed Indiana's decision during the conference call said later l that his state's announcement "is a little bit of a curve for the NAIC. They expected all states to jump on board."
He said his department would not take part in the survey because "it's our governor's position." Gov. Daniels' office did not immediately respond to a request for his rationale. Later the state's Acting Insurance Commissioner and General Counsel Doug Webber said the department had opposed it because the survey "makes no meaningful contribution in evaluating company solvency."
The term climate change risk, he said is vague and ill defined and does not spell out what exact perils are involved. "The governor's fine with that position," he explained.
The governor, who was Office of Management and Budget director under George W. Bush, has been public with outspoken views on government action related to climate change, writing of President Obama in The Wall Street Journal that he has an "imperial climate change policy."
Mr. Kissling said Indiana has about 10 insurers with premium at a level that would make them an NAIC's survey recipient. The department, he said, would not object if an insurer wished to fill out the survey voluntarily.
He said they also would not object if a regulator in another state wished to survey a subsidiary of an Indiana-domiciled group, "but our position is they can't ask that company to speak for the rest of the group."
At the start of the task force discussion Mr. Ario said it would be strictly limited to the cover letter and the survey format.
The regulators agreed to have the cover letter include information making clear that the insurers' information provided would eventually be made public and available on the NAIC Web site.
Mr. Ario said the NAIC would work to avoid duplication of state survey requests to one insurer. He said the information would not be made available electronically until all the companies' material had been aggregated. It will go up without comment, but will be formatted so the public can easily search electronically for specific data.
Mr. Ario said the material asked for in the survey is not forward looking or proprietary, "it's about giving general broad answers."
Originally the survey questions, in addition to seeking full written responses, included a "yes" or "no" box at the top, but some insurers said they would not be able to respond that way to all questions, so the task force voted to leave it out over objections from the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.
The vote for the revised formats on the letter and questionnaire had six task force members voting for it and two abstaining.
An Alabama regulator said he was abstaining because "we're not sure we're going to require the survey."