insurance

Tue, 2014-03-18 06:00Sharon Kelly
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A Record Year of Oil Train Accidents Leaves Insurers Wary

Spurred by the shale drilling rush that has progressed at breakneck speed, the railroad industry has moved fast to help drillers transport petroleum and its byproducts to consumers. Last year, trains hauled over 400,000 carloads of crude oil, up from just 9,500 carloads in 2008, according to railroad industry estimates.  Each carload represents roughly 30,000 gallons of flammable liquids, and some trains haul over 100 oil cars at a time.

But with this fast expansion has come some astounding risks — risks that have insurance companies and underwriters increasingly concerned.

A string of oil train explosions have highlighted the potential for harm. A train hauling 2.9 million gallons of Bakken oil derailed and exploded on November 8 in Aliceville, Alabama, and the oil that leaked but did not burn continues to foul the wetlands in the area.

On December 30th, a train collision in Casselton, North Dakota 20 miles outside of Fargo, prompted a mass evacuation of over half the town’s residents after 18 cars exploded into fireballs visible for miles. 400,000 gallons of oil spilled after that accident, which involved two trains traveling well below local speed limits.

Those crashes are all on the radar of the insurance industry,” attorney Dean Hansell recently told Law360.

All told, railcar accidents spilled more than 1.15 million gallons of crude oil in 2013, federal data shows, compared with an average of just 22,000 gallons a year from 1975 through 2012 — a fifty-fold spike.

Fri, 2014-02-14 11:00Farron Cousins
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Oil Industry Profited Off Polluting Oil Spills, Fraud Investigation Underway

When an oil company’s negligence leads to an oil spill, the financial costs incurred by the company can be crippling.  They have to pay clean up costs, federal fines, and, in many cases, settlements to victims who have been affected by the spill.  Since these costs can be such a burden to the multi-billion dollar industry, they’ve figured out a way to recoup some of their losses by deceiving all the players involved.

Of course, these aren’t the massive oil spills that we’ve seen from Exxon and BP; these are the smaller ones that most people don’t hear about that typically occur when storage containers leak.  That’s where the industry has learned that oil spills can actually be good for their bottom line.

The scheme is known as “double dipping,” and it involves oil companies receiving both insurance funds for spill cleanup along with state funds to clean up oil leaks from underground tankers.  This allows the company to use funds for cleanup, and usually have a little left over to put in their pockets.

A new report by Reuters succinctly captures the essence of what’s happening in a single quote:  “When I first saw these cases, I thought this is kind of incredible,” said New Mexico assistant attorney general Seth Cohen, who handled the lawsuit for the state. “The oil companies have, in effect, profited off polluting.”

Fri, 2013-03-22 05:00Bill Hewitt
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Excerpt from Bill Hewitt's A Newer World: The Insurance Industry’s Response to Climate Change

The following is excerpted from A Newer World: Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis by Bill Hewitt.  It is taken from Chapter 8, “A Resilient Future: Adaptation, Education, Law, and Lifestyle.”  The analysis of the insurance industry’s response to climate change below does not reflect the latest information such as the fact that Hurricane Sandy caused an estimated $28.2 billion in insured losses and approximately $65 billion in economic losses across the US, Caribbean, Bahamas and Canada.

The Insurance Industry’s Response

One industry that knows what is coming is insurance. We looked at insurance in Chapter 5, noting how fully convinced all the leaders in the industry are of climate change’s impacts, now and for the future, and how committed they are to managing those risks through pushing for policy to meet the crisis head-on and by promoting measures to effectively adapt to the inevitable stresses on human populations and infrastructure that are at hand. The Insurance Information Institute cites one study on hurricanes that indicates that as wind speeds increase over the next couple of decades, property insurance losses will increase as well — by 30 to 40 percent. Seven of the ten most costly hurricanes in U.S. history occurred from August 2004 to October 2005, including Katrina, which caused losses of $41 billion. If the predictions of more-intense storms bear out, with the attendant increases in property loss, then Katrina will be dwarfed in the future, especially if hurricanes zero in on major cities in the United States like Miami or New York. The Big Apple had a near miss with disaster in late August 2011 with Hurricane Irene.

Sun, 2012-12-23 06:00Ben Jervey
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Swiss Re Tallies Huge Costs of Climate Inaction

The world’s largest insurers are tallying the costs of climate inaction, and the numbers are staggering.

Swiss Re announced recently that total economic losses in 2012 from “natural catastrophes and man-made disasters” – primarily weather events – should reach roughly $140 billion. Over 11,000 lives were lost due to the so-called “natural catastrophes” alone.

According to the Swiss Re report, “Natural and man-made catastrophes in 2012,” the top five insured loss events are all in the U.S.

“Hurricane Sandy is the largest Atlantic hurricane on record in terms of wind span. This record storm surge caused widespread flooding and damage to a densely populated area on the East Coast of the U.S. It also led to the worst power outage caused by a natural catastrophe in the history of the U.S.”

Thu, 2012-11-08 04:00Sharon Kelly
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In Hurricane Sandy's Aftermath, Fracking Adds to Headaches

As Hurricane Sandy battered the East Coast last month, tens of thousands of landowners with oil and gas leases faced an especially acute concern: would they get help from FEMA if their properties were damaged or destroyed by the storm?

The question arises across the Marcellus region –- and the rest of the U.S.– because one of the agency's disaster response programs will not buyout land that’s been leased to drillers, according to FEMA emails and internal documents.

The US shale boom is drawing increasing attention from federal agencies worried about the potential hazards posed by drilling. A growing awareness of financial risks to landowners and lending institutions associated with oil and gas drilling is slowly emerging. The USDA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have already considered moves to protect themselves from potential legal and financial reverberations.

With FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding now at stake, Congress is also getting involved.

Wed, 2012-02-08 12:28Farron Cousins
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The Business of Risk – Insuring Against Climate Change

When it comes to assessing risk, the insurance industry is one of the leaders in the field. Whether it is health insurance, car insurance, or homeowner’s insurance, the industry is forced to analyze every possible scenario for a given person or structure, and impose a fee based on the likelihood of events for the situation. So when an entire industry that bases their profitability on reducing risk starts factoring climate change into their equations, it's probably a good idea to pay attention.

Earlier this month, insurance commissioners in three separate U.S. states began mandating that insurance providers include the risk of climate change disasters in their risk equations, and develop and disclose their plans to deal with climate-related catastrophes. These plans will be laid out in surveys that insurance companies will provide to insurance commissioners in their respective states.

The three states that have made these new rules are California, New York, and Washington State. Previously, many states had only required the largest insurance companies to have climate plans, but the new rules, which could spread across the United States to climate change-vulnerable places like Florida and Texas, require all insurers to adjust for climate change disasters.

The New York Times lays out why the industry is taking on climate change issues:

Tue, 2007-10-16 08:33Ross Gelbspan
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You're In Good Hands -- Until They Drop You!

In the last three years, more than three million homeowners have received letters of cancellation by insurance companies determined to avoid another $40 billion Katrina bill. They have essentially begun to redraw the outline of the eastern United States somewhere west of the Appalachian Trail.

Public officials in Southern states from Florida to Texas have been fighting insurance carriers for years over rising rates and withdrawal of services, but officials in the Northeast have only recently joined the fray.

Wed, 2006-08-23 10:58Kevin Grandia
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AIG to insure against losses due to climate change

America Public Media and Fortune are both reporting today that AIG, one of the world's largest insurers, will shortly announce new insurance products aimed at covering losses due to the effects of climate change.

This echos earlier statements made in a report by Marsh , the world's largest insurance broker, last spring:

“Climate change - often referred to as 'global warming' - is one of the most significant emerging risks facing the world today, presenting tremendous challenges to the environment, to the world economy, and to individual businesses.”

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