U.S. exploration and production (E&P) operators have begun to disclose some of the risks involved with their development efforts, but overall, they continue to do a poor job of communicating how they manage toxic chemicals, water, waste, air emissions and community impacts, according to shareholder advocates.
Twenty-four of the biggest U.S. operators were measured based on 32 metrics defined by investor advocates As You Sow, Boston Common Asset Management, Green Century Capital Management Inc. (GCCM) and The Investor Environmental health Network.
The major finding in the report is that producers still tend to provide narrative assessments of the impacts and risks of their operations, rather than quantitative data. Narrative assessments tend to disguise actions, or a lack of action, on issues that may be important to investors.
"The oil and gas industry's hydraulic fracturing operations are under intense scrutiny for potential harm to neighboring communities and the environment from air and water pollution to increased noise, traffic and crime," said As You Sow President Danielle Fugere. "If companies are not tracking these potential problems, it is difficult to demonstrate to investors, regulators or the public that the problems are being avoided or resolved."
Several institutional investors have pressed E&Ps since 2009 to be more transparent in reporting how they manage and mitigate environmental risks and community impacts.
"We expect that what gets measured gets managed" said GCCM advocate Lucia von Reusner.
Encana Corp., which scored the highest of the 24 operators, still failed as it met only 14 of the 32 metrics, according to the report. Apache Corp. and Ultra Petroleum Corp. both had the second-best scores at 10.
"We view this report as a good first step" to encourage more dialogue with investors," said an Apache spokesman.
Among the lowest scoring were ExxonMobil Corp., Occidental Petroleum Inc. and BP plc, each with two points. QEP Resources Inc. earned one point.
A BP spokesman said the company disagreed with the scorecard's metrics. The scorecard gave the company two points for monitoring water quality before drilling -- baseline monitoring -- and for tying some management bonuses to health, safety and environmental performance.
Hess Corp. earned eight points, while Royal Dutch Shell plc and Noble Energy Inc. received seven points each. Six points were earned by EOG Resources Inc, while five points were given to five operators: Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Chesapeake Energy Corp., ConocoPhillips, Consol Energy Inc. and EQT Corp.
Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Devon Energy Corp. both received four points, while four operators had three points each: Chevron Corp., Range Resources Corp., Talisman Energy Inc., and WPX Energy Inc.
Receiving two points were BHP Billiton Ltd. and Southwestern Energy Co.
"Although companies still have a long way to go, disclosure in the oil and gas industry has improved during the four years since investor engagements began," the report said. "Where companies are implementing but not disclosing their own use of best management practices and how they learn from on-the-ground failures, they are missing an opportunity to publicly demonstrate industry leadership and address investor and community concerns."