Pension Funds Send Shareholder Letter To Co.
City Comptroller John C. Liu and New York City’s various pension funds have filed a shareowner proposal calling on ExxonMobil to release data on its efforts to safeguard the public and the environment from its hydraulic fracturing operations.
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” for short, is a method of removing natural gas from shale formations using high-pressure water to crack open the earth and release the gases below. Many groups claim the practice leads to contaminated water and other environmental issues, although energy companies insist the process is safe.
“Fracking carries significant concerns about poisoned drinking water, toxic chemical leaks, and explosions,” Liu said in a Tuesday, Feb. 5 statement. “Exxon Mobil says, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got it covered’ and asks us to take it at its word. Until the company shows us hard data on what it has done to protect the public and environment, shareowners cannot be confident that the necessary safeguards exist.”
The shareowners’ call for quantitative measurements is, Liu claims, consistent with the U.S. Department of Energy’s recommendations on shale gas production.
The federal agency recommended in 2011 that companies “adopt a more visible commitment to using quantitative measures as a means of achieving best practice and demonstrating to the public that there is continuous improvement in reducing the environmental impact of shale gas production.”
The data that Liu and fellow shareowners are requesting includes, but is not limited to, the air emissions from fracking that Exxon has reduced per region per year; the number and kinds of community complaints or grievances and whether they remain open or resolved; the goals and systems used to reduce potentially harm- ful chemicals in fracturing fluids.
Liu and the NYC pension funds filed the first-time shareowner proposal jointly with As You Sow, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group that has been engaging Exxon on its fracking practices and disclosures on behalf of the Park Foundation since 2010.
“As every top-rate business knows, what gets measured, gets managed,” said Danielle Fugere, As You Sow President and Chief Counsel. “Exxon has repeatedly failed to measure the harms its fracking operations cause to air, water, and nearby communities, or any progress it is making towards reducing those harms. Exxon shareholders need this information to make sound investment decisions.”
This resolution is part of a nationwide investor initiative calling on 11 major oil and gas companies to improve the way they manage and measure the risks associated with natural gas fracking operations.
In the text of its shareholder proposal, Liu states that two other energy companies-Talisman Energy and BG Group-had promised quantitative updates but Exxon Mobil “does not provide such quantitative reporting” and its subsidiary, XTO Energy, has signed onto a nonbinding statement of principles.
New York City Comptroller John C. Liu serves as the investment advisor to, custodian and trustee of New York City’s pension funds, including the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System, New York City Police Pension Fund, New York City Fire Department Pension Fund and the Board of Education Retirement System.
As of Feb. 4, the New York City pension funds held a combined 11,377,013 shares of ExxonMobil valued at over $1 billion.