Investors Challenge Natural Gas Companies to Increase Transparency, Reduce Risks to Public Health and the Environment From Fracking Operations
Shareholders file resolutions with Chevron*, Exxon Mobil*, and 8 other companies to spur more responsible management practices
February 8, 2012—For a third consecutive year, concerned investors have targeted energy exploration and production companies that rely heavily on hydraulic fracturing (fracking)and fail to disclose critical information about the ways they are managing the associated risks.
Public concern about the environmental and social impacts of fracking operations are growing across the country and can have real business implications for the companies involved.
“Bans and moratoria are denials of companies’ social license to operate and impose a wide range of costs on companies, ranging from the costs of delays to complete loss of access to valuable resources where sunk costs must be written off,” said Larisa Ruoff, Director of Shareholder Advocacy for Green Century Capital Management (Green Century). “Right now, companies are not providing investors, or the communities in which the companies operate, sufficient information on the steps they are taking to address and mitigate the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing operations so shareholders are demanding increased transparency.”
This year, shareholders have filed resolutions with ten companies, including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Chesapeake Energy* calling on the companies to provide a detailed account of how they are addressing the risks associated with community concerns, regulatory impacts, tightened regulations, and moratoria.
“This year’s effort builds on the remarkable success achieved by investors last year, when similar proposals received an average 40 percent** vote. These high votes send strong messages to companies that significant portions of their shareholders require increased disclosure on this issue,” said Richard Liroff, Executive Director of the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN). IEHN and Green Century coordinate investors’ engagements with companies on fracking.
These resolutions are part of a broader investor initiative challenging companies to address climate and sustainability risks. Thus far in the 2012 proxy season, investors working with Ceres, a coalition of investors and public interest groups working with companies to address sustainability challenges, have filed 86 resolutions with 69 companies.
“Investors are concerned about the financial risks associated with the environmental, health, and social impacts of fracking,” said Michael Passoff, Senior Strategist for As You Sow, which has filed at ExxonMobil and Ultra Petroleum* since 2010. “Concern about water sources, toxic chemicals, and wastewater has led to new regulations in several states and proposed federal legislation. Explosions, contamination incidents, and millions of dollars in fines demonstrate that things can and do go wrong,” he continued.
This season, shareholders have a new tool in their dialogue with companies. In December, IEHN and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) released “Extracting the Facts: An Investor Guide to Disclosing Risks from Hydraulic Fracturing Operations,” which is intended to help increase disclosure and mitigate the impacts of fracking.
“In order to maintain their social license to operate, companies must fully disclose the steps they are taking to minimize risks, to acknowledge their challenges and failures, and to clearly define the methods they will use to continually improve operations,” said Laura Berry, Executive Director of ICCR. “The Guide offers a road map for companies to respond to the heightened concerns around fracking, and articulates industry best practices that will reduce the risks, and consequently, the impacts.”
Shareholder proposals were filed at Anadarko*, Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, EOG Resources*, Exxon Mobil, Noble Energy*, Penn Virginia*, Range Resources*, Stone Energy*, and Ultra Petroleum. These proposals have been filed by the following investors and investor advisors: As You Sow, Green Century Capital Management, Mercy Investment Program, Miller/Howard Investments, Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, and Trillium Asset Management.
Green Century Capital Management is an investment advisory firm focused on environmentally responsible investing. Founded by a partnership of non-profit environmental advocacy organizations in 1991, Green Century's mission is to provide people who care about a clean, healthy planet the opportunity to use the clout of their investment dollars to encourage environmentally responsible corporate behavior. Green Century believes that shareholder advocacy is a critical component of responsible investing and actively advocates for greater corporate environmental accountability
The Investor Environmental Health Network is a collaborative partnership of investment managers, advised by nongovernmental organizations, concerned about the financial and public health risks associated with corporate toxic chemicals policies. IEHN, through dialogue and shareholder resolutions, encourages companies to adopt policies to continually and systematically reduce and eliminate the toxic chemicals in their products.
As You Sow is a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies. For more information, visit www.asyousow.org.
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, currently celebrating its 41th year, is the pioneer coalition of active shareholders who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for change. Its 300 member organizations with over $100 billion in AUM have an enduring record of corporate engagement that has demonstrated influence on policies promoting justice and sustainability.
* As of December 31, 2011, neither the Green Century Balanced Fund nor the Green Century Equity Fund held ExxonMobil, Chevron, Anadarko, PennVirginia or Stone Energy. As of December 31, 2011 Chesapeake Energy comprised 0.00% of the Green Century Balanced Fund and 0.28% of the Green Century Equity Fund; Ultra Petroleum comprised 0.00% of the Green Century Balanced Fund and 0.09% of the Green Century Equity Fund; EOG Resources comprised 0.00% of the Green Century Balanced Fund and 0.51% of the Green Century Equity Fund; Noble Energy comprised 0.00% of the Green Century Balanced Fund and 0.32% of the Green Century Equity Fund; and Range Resources comprised 0.00% of the Green Century Balanced Fund and 0.19% of the Green Century Equity Fund.
** The percentage in favor was calculated by (i) dividing the number of votes in support of the proposal by (ii) the sum of the number of votes voted in support of and against the proposal. Abstentions and broker non-votes were not included in the calculation.
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