Faith-Based Investors Call on Exxon, Valero and Others to Support Methane Regulations

Since the president announced in January a national goal of reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry nearly in half by 2025, an outpouring of voices has supported the move. Now, EPA has proposed rules to help meet that target, and we’ve seen another wave of support – everyone from editorial boards in the heart of oil and gas country to massive investors like California’s pension funds has recognized that the rules are a manageable, commonsense means for reducing methane pollution.

ICCR-logoThe one voice that’s been silent? The companies with the opportunity to adopt the proven, cost-effective technologies and services to not only reduce pollution but also prevent the waste of the very energy resource they’re producing. Now another voice has emerged to make the case directly to these companies that it’s worth constructively engaging in the rulemaking process: the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a group of shareholders dedicated to promoting environmentally and socially responsible corporate practices.

Several shareholders from ICCR’s coalition sent letters today to dozens of energy companies in which they invest, voicing their concern about the impact of methane emissions on the climate and public health. As You Sow, BCAM, Mercy Investments, Miller Howard, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, Trillium Asset Management, and others made their case to companies whose shares they own, including some of the biggest names in the business, like Chesapeake Energy, ConocoPhillips, Exxon, Kinder Morgan, and Valero.

Specifically, the investors asked the companies to file public comments on EPA’s proposed methane rules, sharing the companies’ data and experience with methane monitoring and management and providing perspective on how the methane rules can be designed to reduce emissions cost effectively. They also urged the companies to guide their powerful trade associations –which have been some of the most vocal opponents of the rules – to engage honestly and transparently in the rulemaking process.

Methane is a serious threat to our communities not just because of its powerful climate impact but also because it’s released along with harmful pollutants that threaten public health. ICCR sees unlimited methane pollution as “just the kind of unsustainable action that must be curbed in an effort to build a more just and healthy world,” and aims to reduce methane as part of its commitment to care for the earth for the sake of humanity.

But ICCR didn’t just urge companies to engage in the rulemaking out of a moral obligation – as investors, they also know it’s a smart business decision. As ICCR investors pointed out in their letters, the International Energy Association lists reducing methane as one of the top four policies that “could stop the growth in global energy-related emissions by the end of this decade at no net economic cost.”

We’ve seen real-world examples that the solutions for reducing methane can be employed to successfully reduce emissions, alongside business and job growth. In the year after the state of Colorado enacted rules directly regulating methane – the kind of strong rules we’d like to see from EPA – Weld County, the heart of the state’s drilling boom, had the country's highest job growth at about 16 percent. And after implementing technology to reduce methane emissions from its Wyoming operations, leading energy company Jonah Energy was able to significantly cut emissions over a five year period, saving $5 million in the process through captured gas and operational efficiencies, according to FLIR Systems, the manufacturer of the technology.

ICCR knows that good environmental policy can make good business sense, and private/public sector collaboration is a key to getting there.

We hope the companies ICCR investors reached out to today heed the call to constructively engage with EPA on the proposed methane rules and “show good faith and establish basic protective safeguards that will benefit the country and the industry itself.”

This post originally published on the EDF Energy Exchange blog.

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