Williams Companies, Inc. shareholders face undisclosed risks associated with hydraulic fracturing
Green Century urges Williams to improve transparency at annual meeting
May 20, 2010 — Building on the recent success at Cabot Oil & Gas* and EOG Resources*, where over 30 percent of shareholders voted in support of a similar resolution,** today investors will challenge Williams Companies, Inc.* to improve its disclosure of the risks to shareholder value associated with its gas drilling (hydraulic fracturing) operations.
Hydraulic fracturing is a process used by energy companies that injects high volumes of water, chemicals and particles underground to create fractures through which gas can flow for collection. Fracturing operations require significant land use modification, disruptive new roads, the trucking of toxic chemicals through established communities, and heavy water use. According to the industry, fracturing has been used in roughly 90 percent of wells in operation today and 60-80 percent of new wells will require fracturing to remain viable.
Williams is the 10th largest natural gas producer in the United States and according to the company’s 2009 10-K filed with the SEC, over 99 percent of its US reserves are natural gas. The company states on its website that it “specialize[s] in developing unconventional reserves, including tight-sands gas, coal-bed methane and shale,” which often require hydraulic fracturing.
Hydraulic fracturing operations have been linked to environmental risks that could have significant financial implications for the companies involved and that are leading to increased regulatory scrutiny. “Given its reliance on hydraulic fracturing, Williams may face substantial business risks -- but the company does not provide investors the necessary information on its hydraulic fracturing operations to determine whether the company acknowledges and is successfully managing such risks,” said Larisa Ruoff, the Director of Shareholder Advocacy for Green Century Capital Management.
The Green Century Equity Fund filed a resolution at Williams asking the company to report on the environmental impact of the company’s hydraulic fracturing operations and for a discussion of the potential policies the company could adopt, above and beyond regulatory requirements, to reduce or eliminate hazards to air, water and soil quality from those activities.
As the use of hydraulic fracturing skyrockets, communities, regulators and investors are growing increasingly concerned about the environmental impacts of this process. Regulation at the state or federal level could have dramatic implications for all companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing by subjecting them to EPA oversight, potentially restricting areas in which hydraulic fracturing may be performed, limiting materials that may be used, or otherwise increasing costs.
“We are not asking Williams or any other company to stop hydraulic fracturing, but we do want to make sure that this drilling is done in a way that both minimizes its impact on drinking water and surrounding communities while also protecting the company’s bottom line,” continued Ruoff. “We are concerned that our investments may be undermined by company decision-making and policies that could fall behind public and regulatory expectations for environmental protection, and we believe increased transparency is critical.”
Green Century and the Investor Environmental Health Network are leading the investor effort to ensure that natural gas drilling is done in a way that protects investor interests by avoiding unnecessary risks to human health and the environment. Numerous investors and investor advisors including As You Sow, Boston Common Asset Management, Catholic Healthcare West, First Affirmative Financial Network, Green Century Capital Management, MMA Praxis Mutual Funds, the Mercy Investment Program, Miller/Howard Investments, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the Shareholder Association for Research and Education, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, the Sustainability Group, and Trillium Asset Management have engaged over 20 companies in efforts to encourage increased transparency and disclosures of the risks associated with this process.
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. Green Century manages two environmentally responsible mutual funds, the Green Century Balanced Fund and the Green Century Equity Fund.
*As of March 31, 2010, Cabot Oil & Gas was not held by the Green Century Balanced Fund or the Green Century Equity Fund; EOG Resources was not held by the Green Century Balanced Fund and comprised 0.43% of the Green Century Equity Fund; Williams Companies, Inc. was not held by the Green Century Balanced Fund and comprised 0.25% of the Green Century Equity Fund. Portfolio composition will change due to ongoing management of the Funds. Please refer to the Green Century Funds website for current information regarding the Funds' portfolio holdings. These holdings are subject to risk as described in the Funds' prospectus. References to specific investments should not be construed as a recommendation of the securities by the Funds, their administrator, or their distributor.
** 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.
You should consider the Funds' investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. For a prospectus that contains this and other information about the Funds, call 1-800-93-GREEN, visit www.greencentury.com or email email@example.com. Please read the prospectus carefully before investing. Investments are not FDIC insured, nor are they deposits of or guaranteed by a bank or any other entity, so they may lose value.
The Green Century Funds are distributed by UMB Distribution Services, LLC 5/10
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