U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission releases Climate-Disclosure Rule and faces immediate legal challenges

March 21, 2024

On March 6, 2024, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued its final rule requiring large corporations to disclose their carbon footprint but excluded the controversial mandate to track Scope 3 emissions, which refers to greenhouse gas emissions in supply chains. Instead, the final rule will require most businesses to track Scope 1 and 2 emissions, which include emissions produced by companies and associated with energy consumption. The rules had been the focus of two years of intense lobbying from corporations and Republicans who said the SEC was reaching beyond its authority. In addition, many agricultural groups have been vocal about the Scope 3 emissions, citing privacy concerns and the burdensome costs of tracking such emissions. The SEC ultimately fielded 24,000 comments before finalizing the rule.

As anticipated, the release of the final rule also released a flurry of lawsuits. The SEC has stated it would "vigorously defend" the rules in court. Most importantly, the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion on March 15 granting a request for an administrative stay on the climate-disclosure rule just a week after oil field services companies Liberty Energy and Nomad Proppant Services filed a lawsuit challenging them. On March 6, a coalition of 10 states filed a legal challenge of the rule, claiming it was "illegal and unconstitutional." The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also filed a separate lawsuit seeking to halt implementation of the rule. For additional information and to review the rule, see https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2024-31.