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ExxonMobil Fracking Impacts Face Investor Scrutiny Again

ExxonMobil Corp.'s shareholders once again will see a resolution on their proxy statements that would force the largest U.S. natural gas producer to issue a report about the financial impact from regulatory and community impacts associated with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) within its drilling operations.

A similar measure was defeated last year by ExxonMobil's shareholders (71% opposed) and those of Chevron Corp. (59% opposed) at their annual meetings (see Shale Daily,May 27, 2011).

ExxonMobil attempted to block the resolution on this year's proxy statement, which the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) denied in late March. The annual meeting is scheduled May 30.

"Community opposition to fracking has grown significantly in recent years, leading to bans, moratoriums and increased regulatory scrutiny," said As You Sow's Michael Passoff, a senior strategist for the shareholder advocacy nonprofit, which filed the resolution on behalf of the Park Foundation. "Investors need companies to disclose how they are managing these wide-ranging risks."

The proposal is part of an investor coalition effort coordinated by Green Century Capital Management and the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN).

According to IEHN, ExxonMobil's "existing reporting focuses heavily on community opposition it faced in just a single town, Southlake, TX," but "more than 70 towns or cities and at least three states and four countries...have enacted bans or moratoriums on fracking which can limit drilling operations and materially impact investors' holdings. The company's existing reporting failed to detail where these wide-ranging developments may affects its operations."

The investor groups' resolution also wants ExxonMobil to identify risks to operations or expansions related to water supply limitations.

"Fracking is a major issue of concern for investors and the public," said the Park Foundation's Executive Director Jon Jensen. "As the nation's largest natural gas producer, ExxonMobil needs to set the standard for disclosure on its gas exploration practices and development of safe technology."

Several producers have faced similar fracking resolutions, but none have been passed by shareholders -- yet. According to IEHN, the average vote in 2011 for proposals related to fracking was 40%, double the average support for a shareholder vote on environmental or social risks.

The ExxonMobil proposal was co-filed by Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Zevin Asset Management, First Affirmative Financial Network, the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica and the Benedictine Sisters of Boerne, TX.

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