Earth Week
Apr 21, 2021


In a draft executive order, President Joe Biden would direct federal agencies to take sweeping action to combat climate-related financial risks to government and the economy, including moves that could impose new regulations on businesses, including banking and insurance. 



The draft order singles out and directs the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) to assess climate-related issues in its oversight of insurers.  It asks the FIO to work with state regulators to examine the potential for “major disruptions” of private insurance coverage in regions of the country that are particularly vulnerable to climate change.  It also directs Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, as head of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, to assess risks to the financial system and the U.S. itself and deliver a report within 180 days.  President Biden is hosting an international climate summit April 22-23. 



Ahead of Biden’s climate summit, lawmakers reintroduced their Green New Deal resolution and their set of aggressive climate goals intended to transform the U.S. economy.  Initially introduced in 2019, the non-binding resolution seeks to eliminate U.S. greenhouse gas emission within a decade and transition the economy away from fossil fuels.  The resolution also calls for free higher education for all Americans, affordable, safe, and adequate” housing, an expansion of millions more union jobs, and high-quality health care.



The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) raised the “average” number of storms and hurricanes based on the most recent 30-year climate record – meaning the average Atlantic hurricane season has 14 named storms and seven hurricanes, up from 12 named storms and six hurricanes previously.  NOAA will issue its initial seasonal outlook for the 2021 hurricane season in late May.  In advance of wildfire season, the chance for significant fires in California and the West is high.  The drought, which led to the most extreme wildfire season on record in California and Colorado last year, is now worse.  We’ll keep you posted on climate-related orders, regulations, legislation, and predictions to help you navigate this complex topic.




The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would allow banks to provide services to cannabis companies in states where it is legal, a step towards removing what analysts say is a barrier to development of a national industry. Lawmakers voted 321-101 to approve the bill and send it to the Senate. The bill clarifies that proceeds from legitimate cannabis businesses would not be considered illegal and directs federal regulators to craft rules for how they would supervise such banking activity



The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a contractor must pay the medical marijuana bills of a former employee who was injured on the job under the state workers’ compensation law, and that doing so doesn’t subject the company to criminal liability even though marijuana is still illegal at the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act.  The court ruled since the employer was being ordered to pay for the worker’s marijuana, and that the firm had appealed the decision, the company couldn’t be shown to intentionally be aiding and abetting the injured worker’s possession of marijuana contrary to the federal CSA. 


Making Our Way Around the Country


The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Services Act (H.R. 1195) now moves to the Senate after passing in the House by a 254-166 vote.  The measure, which was sponsored by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), would direct OSHA to issue a standard requiring employers in the health care and social services industries to develop and implement workplace violence prevention plans to protect nurses, physicians, social workers, emergency responders, and others. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that workers in health care and social service professions are five times more likely to suffer a serious injury related to workplace violence than those in other professions. Representative Courtney said in a press release, “These workers are facing a disturbing level of violence…happening in every congressional district across the country. They shouldn't have to fear for their own lives while they're at work trying to save ours.”


The State of Connecticut’s Insurance Department issued a notice to all entities and persons licensed by the Department to responsibly maintain and transparently deploy “Big Data” in full compliance with Federal and State anti-discrimination laws. The Department notice outlined three regulatory concerns for the use of data: internal data deployment; internal data governance; and risk management and compliance. The Department offered guidance providing examples of the types of information that it may request during the course of examinations specific to the usage of data brokers, with an explicit focus on data source, storage, curation, and documentation.



The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) posted a suite of new guidance for plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries, recordkeepers, and plan participants on best practices for maintaining cybersecurity, including tips on how to protect retirement benefits. The EBSA guidance includes Tips for Hiring a Service Provider with Strong Cybersecurity PracticesCybersecurity Program Best Practices, and Online Security Tips for Participants and Beneficiaries.  As of 2018, EBSA estimates there are 34 million defined benefit plan participants in private pension plans and 106 million defined contribution plan participates covering estimated assets of $9.3 trillion.



The 2021 theme of Earth Day, celebrated internationally on April 22, is Restore our Earth, focusing on the value of local action on global issues such as climate change, conserving resources, and environmental justice.  There are a number of ways to celebrate Earth Day and we hope you’re able to take some time and enjoy the outdoors.  Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.


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