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Investor Groups: Fracking Companies Need More Public Disclosure

A scorecard assembled by investor groups faults gas producers for secrecy about fracking risks. (Disclosing The Facts)
A scorecard assembled by investor groups faults gas producers for secrecy about fracking risks. (Disclosing The Facts)
December 28, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Companies fracking for gas do a poor job of informing the public, according to investor groups. Their just-released scorecard faults Chesapeake Energy for secrecy.

The third annual "Disclosing The Facts" scorecard graded the largest gas producers on disclosure in areas such as water pollution, methane leakage, the use of toxic chemicals and community impacts. Chesapeake scored only four out of a possible 39.

Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow, one of the groups behind the scorecard, said they found more than two-thirds of the companies were not properly informing investors or local communities.

"Leaks, spills and explosions continue to make headlines," she said, "even as 70 percent of the energy companies continue to get failing marks."

The investor groups argue that public disclosure will encourage voluntary use of well-established best industry practices - in areas such as water use, waste disposal, leak detection, and traffic and road impacts.

Without proper disclosure, said Steven Heim, managing director of Boston Common Asset Management, problems in those areas can be like sailing around hidden rocks for investors. He said this is going to be increasingly important, with low gas prices putting pressure on producers to cut corners.

"To what degree that they can be a low-cost operator, particularly with the low prices for gas, now, and oil," he said. "Our concern is how well that they can also be responsible environmentally and to their local communities."

The industry often will cite its economic importance when arguing against government regulation, but Richard Liroff, executive director of the Investor Environmental Health Network, said they stay out of that debate. He said they argue to the companies that voluntary disclosure and good corporate citizenship are good for long-term profitability.

"We hold shares in the companies. We have access to senior management," he said. "We can say, 'Look, here is the business case for doing all these good things that will position the company well competitively and also be good for the environment and local communities.' "

Chesapeake did not immediately return a call requesting comment. The scorecard praises CONSOL Energy for dramatic improvement. EQT is a bit above the middle of the pack.

More information is online at disclosingthefacts.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV