Major investors, endowments prod oil firms to ignore Trump’s methane rollback

Tank worker in the Permian play. Image: Apache

Investors including Harvard University’s endowment, the Church of England and California State Teachers’ Retirement System, are asking oil companies to ignore the Trump administration’s plan to let them off the hook for monitoring — and stopping — methane leaks.

“The rollback of federal regulation will lead to excessive methane emissions, threatening the role of natural gas in the low carbon future and challenging oil and gas companies’ social license to operate,” a global group of more than 140 investors wrote in a letter Thursday to 35 energy companies. The investors, who represent more than $5.5 trillion in assets, want the companies to publicly oppose deregulation, saying that industry silence “will be interpreted as implicit support” for the Trump administration’s proposal.

The Trump administration wants to abandon regulations aimed at preventing methane leaks from oil and gas wells.

Capturing methane, rather than letting it escape, is better for business, because it captures product that can be sold, the investor group organized by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility said in the letter. Big investors including Legal & General Investment Management, Allianz Global Investors, and the New York City Comptroller’s office also signed the letter.

Some companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, BP Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Equinor ASA have reduced methane emissions voluntarily and said they endorse federal regulations, the letter noted.

"To take this regulatory step backwards defies logic and increases risk to industry, environment, and investor portfolios," said Danielle Fugere, president of environmental shareholder group As You Sow, which also signed the letter. Since 2017 the group has filed more than 10 shareholder proposals at energy companies such as Southern Co. and Exelon over methane emissions. Twenty-four methane and greenhouse gas emissions proposals in the last two years have received an average 33.5% support from shareholders.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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