For some time I’ve been writing about the problems with coal-fired power plants and the havoc they cause to the environment. Coal-fired power plants affect the environment at every phase, from mining the coal, to burning at the power plants, to the fly ash from the towers, to the ash fields around the plants, the rivers surrounding the plants, not to mention the air around the plants.

We are the lucky ones in Independence, with two coal-fired plants closed down in recent years. The Missouri City plant was closed in 2015 because it could not comply with EPA regulations. The Blue Valley power plant that ceased burning coal and now burns natural gas, which it was originally built to burn. The city is working toward closing this power plant down completely and buying energy from other sources.

The city might be scaling back on coal just in time.

“Chubb became the first of the big U.S. insurers to announce a ban on coverage for coal companies,” the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. “Chubb, facing increasing pressure from environmental action groups, said Monday it will no longer sell insurance to new coal-fired power plants or sell new policies to companies that derive more than 30% of their revenues from thermal coal mining. Up to now, U.S. insurers have resisted joining the growing movement in Europe to stop selling insurance to coal-based power plants and coal mines because of the environmental damage they cause.”

“Chubb recognizes the reality of climate change and the substantial impact of human activity on our planet,” said Evan Greenberg, Chubb’s chief executive.

The company, which is based in Switzerland but does much of its business in the U.S., will also stop making new investments in companies that have a big exposure to thermal coal mining or coal-based energy production.

Joseph Wayland, Chubb’s general counsel, said that the decision was driven by business interests as well as broader environmental concerns.

“As a global insurer we are impacted by climate change, in everything from increasing fire risk to flooding,” he said. “Climate change ... can be seen in the increasing severity and frequency of natural catastrophes.”

Anyone that has been aware of the news over the last two years knows that natural disasters have hit not only all over the U.S. but all over the world, and insurers are picking up the tab.

“According to Swiss Re, the insurance industry faced $76 billion of losses from natural catastrophes in 2018, the fourth-highest sum on record. Not all of the catastrophes can be directly linked to climate change, but modeling specialists say that some of them, such as the series of wildfires that hit California last year, are made more likely by warmer temperatures.”

“Chubb’s decision could increase the pressure on other big U.S. insurers such as AIG and Travelers to act. One that may not follow in divesting from coal is Berkshire Hathaway, which owns a number of insurance companies.”

Other insurance companies in Europe over the past two years have also announced measures to divest from coal, or to stop selling insurance to companies involved in its production and use.

Lynn Youngblood is the executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City. Reach her at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net.