Disclosure: The Government Poses a Huge Threat to This Business Plan

At a recent meeting of the National Associate of State Treasurers
(Yawn), John Podesta, after stating hilariously that what the world
really needed was continued leadership by state treasurers on the
global warming issue, argued: 

"Climate change is a threat to the long-term value of the economy and
failure to calculate its impacts or manage or reduce its harm mean that
our assets are being over valued, and the risks we face are being under
reported."

I have a lot of interest in global warming, which is why I created a second blog Climate Skeptic to deal with these issues.  There is a lot about anthropogenic warming we do not understand.  But what is nearly a total 100% lock is that, at least for the United States, the cost to our economy of regulations to limit CO2 will be far higher than the likely net-negative effects of warming (Al Gore's 20 foot sea level rises and other anti-rational claims notwithstanding).  At its heart, isn't the risk really of damage from government regulation, rather than the climate?

Via Michael Giberson of Knowledge Problem, the NY Attorney General is concerned that certain companies are not disclosing global warming-related risks, but he is at least more honest about what those risks are:

Last Friday, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo sent subpoenas
to five power generating companies seeking to find out if the companies
had properly disclosed financial risks associated with proposed new
coal-fired power plants.

All five of the letters accompanying the subpoenas are available from the NYAG's website.  Here is the opening paragraph of the letter to Dominion Resources, Inc.:

We are aware that Dominion Resources, Inc., ("Dominion")
has plans to build a coal-fired electric generating unit that would
generate 585 megawatts of electricity without current plans to capture
and sequester the resulting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The
increase in CO2 emissions from the operating of this unit, in
combination with Dominion's other coal-fired plants, will subject
Dominion to increased financial, regulatory, and litigation risks. We
are concerned that Dominion has not adequately disclosed these risks to
its shareholders, including the New York State Common Retirement Fund,
which is a significant holder of Dominion stock. Pursuant to the
Attorney General's investigatory authority under New York General
Business Law § 352, and New York Executive Law § 63(12), accompanying
this letter is a subpoena seeking information regarding Dominion's
analysis of its climate risks and its disclosures of such risks to
investors.

A little later, the letter gets more specific: "For example, any one
of the several new or likely regulatory initiatives for CO2 emissions
from power plants "“ including state carbon controls, EPA's regulations
under the Clean Air Act, or the enactment of federal global warming
legislation "“ would add a significant cost to carbon-intensive coal
generation, such as the new coal plant planned by Dominion." In
addition to Dominion, the NYAG's office sent subpoenas to AES, Dynegy,
Peabody, and Xcel. Here is the story from the New York Times.

The letter doesn't say so explicitly, but I'm sure the message was
clear, that in addition to new or likely legislative actions and
substantive regulatory initiatives, the companies also faced the risks
and costs associated with being harassed by swarms of officers from the
NYAG's office.

You can see what is going on here -- following in the rich tradition established by the egregious Eliot Spitzer, the NY AG is again overreaching his office's authority and attempting to set regulatory policy rather than enforce it.  But at least he is honest in portraying the main risk to be a government regulatory backlash on these companies.

Thinking about this, couldn't every company put this in their boilerplate?  I mean, for most of us, the number one risk we face all the time is that the government will either do something to us specifically or the economy in general to hurt results.  Let's just have everyone add the line "the government poses a huge risk to our business plan" and be done with it.

  • wwhawkeye

    Our bond disclosures say pretty much that very thing.

  • Speaking of Government intrusion, you might find this funny:

    Der Fuerher Frau Hitlery spoke to liberal sheeple at the Reichstag today and stated that she would remove ANY IDEA of privatization for ANY government program after she takes over as Chancellor. Also, her MANDATORY health care plan will require PROOF to have a JOB!

  • jeff

    I can think of several other threats to the long term health of the economy that are more certain than climate change.

    How about:

    "Unfunded public pension liabilities are a threat to the long-term value of the economy and failure to calculate its impacts or manage or reduce its harm mean that our assets are being over valued, and the risks we face are being under reported."

    or

    "Future entitlement benefits are a threat to the long-term value of the economy and failure to calculate its impacts or manage or reduce its harm mean that our assets are being over valued, and the risks we face are being under reported."

    What are the chances that State Treasurers want to discuss those risks?