“Best Fracking Practices” Demanded by Investors Controlling $1 Trillion Shares

by Duane Nichols on May 19, 2012

Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

The Environment News Service has distributed the following story, which is excerpted below:

Institutional investors in the United States, Europe and Australia with nearly $1 trillion in assets under management have united to support a set of best practices for the hydraulic fracturing of shale rock to harvest natural gas.

Boston Common Asset Management, the Investor Environmental Health Network and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility announced Wednesday that 55 major investors are part of their growing coalition seeking industry action to reduce and disclose all chemicals used in fracking, among other practices.

Steven Heim, managing director and director of Boston Common’s environmental, social and governance research and shareholder engagement division, said, “Assuming that hydraulic fracturing is going to continue to be used in some form, investors need to have greater certainty in the marketplace as to industry practices and government regulation. Currently there is no such certainty and that is really why investors are speaking up.”  In December 2011, two of the coalition organizations published “Extracting the Facts: An Investor Guide to Disclosing Risks from Hydraulic Fracturing Operations.”

The guide is organized around 12 core goals and supporting practices and indicators:

  • Manage risks transparently and at board level
  • Reduce surface footprint
  • Assure well integrity
  • Reduce and disclose all toxic chemicals
  • Protect water quality by rigorous monitoring
  • Minimize fresh water use
  • Prevent contamination from waste water
  • Minimize and disclose air emissions
  • Prevent contamination from solid waste and sludge residuals
  • Assure best in class contractor performance
  • Secure community consent
  • Disclose fines, penalties and litigation

Investors are seeking action from the industry due to the increasing level of uncertainty about the impacts of fracking on human health and the environment.

The Delaware River Basin Commission has a moratorium in place and has proposed regulations to protect water resources during the development and operation of natural gas projects. The Marcellus Shale formation underlies about 36 percent of the Delaware River Basin, which includes portions of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

The province of Quebec, Canada has imposed a fracking moratorium. Outright bans in France and Bulgaria. Chevron’s exploration license in Bulgaria has been cancelled.

Investor concern is evident in the high levels of shareholder votes supporting requests for more fracking disclosure. In the 2010 and 2011 proxy seasons, 21 shareholder resolutions at 16 companies received strong support, averaging 30 percent votes on six resolutions going to votes in 2010, and an average 40 percent votes on five resolutions voted on in 2011.

Sister Nora Nash is director of corporate social responsibility with Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, a member of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the other organization behind the guide. “Local communities have been seriously impacted by lifecycle of shale gas fracturing,” she told reporters. “What is not known is whether impacts are being adequately addressed by gas companies.” “We’ve heard all sorts of horror stories, but we’re still woefully under educated about this process. When adequate protections are not in place, communities on the front lines clearly suffer.”

See also the report in Scientific American entitled “The Future of Energy.”

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