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Noble Energy, Stone Energy Agree to More Risk Disclosures

Noble Energy Inc. and Stone Energy Corp. have agreed to make additional disclosures of how they are managing the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing (fracking), an investment manager organization said Thursday.

Meanwhile, ExxonMobil Corp. is challenging a resolution filed by shareholders concerned about fracking risks and is asking the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for permission to keep the resolution from appearing on a proxy ballot.

Richard Liroff, executive director of the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN), which leads a coalition of shareholder advocacy groups on social and environmental issues, told NGI's Shale Daily the companies agreed to the disclosures in response to resolutions filed by two of its members, Green Century Capital Management and Miller/Howard Investments. The resolutions have since been withdrawn.

"The filers had a number of exchanges with the companies with respect to what they are disclosing now and what the investors would like to see the companies disclose in the future," Liroff said. "Understandings were reached as to what the elements of those disclosures would be and by roughly what time those disclosures would be made."

Last month, IEHN said resolutions filed with EOG Resources Inc. and Penn Virginia Corp. were also withdrawn after the companies had taken steps to respond to shareholder concerns about fracking (see Shale Daily, Feb. 23).

Excluding ExxonMobil, five companies -- Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Chesapeake Energy Corp., Chevron Corp., Range Resources Corp., and Ultra Petroleum Corp. -- have yet to respond to the resolutions, the last of which was submitted in January. Liroff said additional fracking disclosures appeared to be headed to a proxy vote at all five companies.

"There have been discussions with a couple of them," Liroff said. "It is my third-hand understanding that with one or two of the companies, there has been no meaningful discussion with the filers. Sometimes that happens. [But] one of the discussions is going in a very constructive direction, so I'm uncertain whether it will go to a vote or not."

According to SEC documents, ExxonMobil sent a letter to the SEC on Jan. 23 saying it intends to omit a proposal by the Park Foundation -- through a group called As You Sow -- from its proxy statement and form of proxy for its annual shareholders' meeting. The SEC has yet to respond to the move, but the company could face an enforcement action if regulators believe the resolution should be included.

"ExxonMobil has said to SEC staff that they have already provided the information the resolution filers requested," Liroff said. "The resolution filers have responded and have basically said, 'no, the company has not responded.' There are still huge gaps in the information that the filers would like to see the company reporting."

The IEHN is in the third year of its campaign to convince companies to provide additional disclosures of how they are handling risks associated with fracking. Last December the group and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility made a similar appeal for transparency (see Shale Daily, Dec. 15, 2011). According to IEHN's website, its members managed more than $41 billion in assets in 2008.

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