Oregon: Ask House to VOTE NO on Controversial Pollution Liability Bill

The House will be voting on NAMIC-opposed SB 814, Insurance for Environmental Claims, which will interfere with an insurer’s right to enforce the terms of their insuring agreement. The proposed legislation would retroactively rewrite commercial general liability insurance policies to require insurers to provide pollution clean-up coverage that was never agreed to by the parties, underwritten by the insurer, and paid for by the policyholder.

SB 814 is a problem for ALL insurers, not just commercial insurers, because it would establish a very troubling legislative precedence of ignoring the Oregon Constitution, overturning recent court rulings on pollution liability claims, and would retroactively interfere with the contractual rights and responsibilities of insurers and policyholders. SB 814 also retroactively invalidates certain insurance policy exclusions, thereby, creating contractual uncertainty for insurers and policyholders. Further, SB 814 would create new liability exposure (treble damages bad faith) for insurers in their standard commercial liability claims adjusting practices.

NAMIC has been meeting with legislators to express concern about the anti-insurance-consumer nature of SB 814 and the public policy dangers of resolving a general societal problem – cleanup of the Portland Harbor properties – with a legislative fix that specifically targets commercial insurers and their policyholders.

If you live in Oregon, please contact your state representative and other members of the House to ask them to VOTE NO on SB 814. If your company has operations in Oregon, please urge your in-state employees, agents, and policyholders to get involved and contact members of the House.

In your communications with legislators, consider the industry talking points on the bill and the legal opinion on the unconstitutional nature of the retroactive application of SB 814 drafted by former Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul J. De Muniz, who was retained by NAMIC in collaboration with the other trades, to educate legislators about the legal problems with the bill and to refute the claims of the proponents of SB 814 that it doesn’t violate the Oregon Constitution.

Also consider mentioning that the proposed legislation will significantly increase insurance defense costs and create enormous liability coverage exposure for insurers, which will adversely impact affordability of commercial liability insurance for businesses in the state.

Christian J. Rataj
State Affairs Manager