So-called clean energy is fueled by rape, arson and child labor

A new report reveals the dirty truth about so-called “clean energy.”

The toxic heavy metals used to build electric car batteries are mined by child slave labor, who are often raped and die agonizing early deaths.

The Daily Mail reports:

Dorsen, just eight, is one of 40,000 children working daily in the mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The terrible price they will pay for our clean air is ruined health and a likely early death.

Almost every big motor manufacturer striving to produce millions of electric vehicles buys its cobalt from the impoverished central African state. It is the world’s biggest producer, with 60 per cent of the planet’s reserves.

The cobalt is mined by unregulated labour and transported to Asia where battery manufacturers use it to make their products lighter, longer-lasting and rechargeable.

The planned switch to clean energy vehicles has led to an extraordinary surge in demand. While a smartphone battery uses no more than 10 grams of refined cobalt, an electric car needs 15kg (33lb)…

…Cobalt is such a health hazard that it has a respiratory disease named after it – cobalt lung, a form of pneumonia which causes coughing and leads to permanent incapacity and even death.

Even simply eating vegetables grown in local soil can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, thyroid damage and fatal lung diseases, while birds and fish cannot survive in the area.

No one knows quite how many children have died mining cobalt in the Katanga region in the south-east of the country. The UN estimates 80 a year, but many more deaths go unregistered, with the bodies buried in the rubble of collapsed tunnels. Others survive but with chronic diseases which destroy their young lives. Girls as young as ten in the mines are subjected to sexual attacks and many become pregnant.

And, as The New York Times once reported:

According to the company’s proposal to join a United Nations clean-air program, the settlers living in this area left in a “peaceful” and “voluntary” manner.

People here remember it quite differently.

“I heard people being beaten, so I ran outside,” said Emmanuel Cyicyima, 33. “The houses were being burnt down.”

Other villagers described gun-toting soldiers and an 8-year-old child burning to death when his home was set ablaze by security officers.

“They said if we hesitated they would shoot us,” said William Bakeshisha, adding that he hid in his coffee plantation, watching his house burn down. “Smoke and fire.”…

…the government and the company said the settlers were illegal and evicted for a good cause: to protect the environment and help fight global warming.

The case twists around an emerging multibillion-dollar market trading carbon-credits under the Kyoto Protocol, which contains mechanisms for outsourcing environmental protection to developing nations.

The company involved, New Forests Company, grows forests in African countries with the purpose of selling credits from the carbon-dioxide its trees soak up to polluters abroad.

Who will save the Earth from environmentalists?

Anyone traveling along the roadways that run parallel to that part of the Delaware River where George Washington staged his famous Christmas night crossing in 1776 is sure to encounter signs that take aim at an energy project known as the PennEast Pipeline.

Some of those signs invoke revolutionary language with statements that claim “We the People Say No to PennEast.”

Other signs say: “Don’t Let them Poison Our Water! Stop PennEast,” “Pipeline Blast Zone, Stop PennEast,” “Just Say No! Stop PennEast,” and “Stop the Fracking Pipelines.”

The messages opposing the natural gas pipeline can be spotted along roadways on both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the river.

Any day now, the six energy companies that are part of the PennEast Pipeline project expect to get a green light to proceed from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity. That approval would come in the form of a certificate allowing construction and operation of the pipeline.

The anti-pipeline signs and mailings mention ReThink Energy NJ, a coalition of environmentalists who have received substantial funding from the Philadelphia-based William Penn Foundation.

Under current plans, the proposed 120-mile-long, 36-inch-diameter, underground pipeline would originate just north of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in an area that interconnects with other major interstate pipelines that serve markets on the East Coast, including New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Wilkes-Barre, the county seat of Luzerne County, sits on the outskirts of the Pocono Mountains in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania.

If the federal commission OKs it, a year from now a new pipeline will be poised to transport natural gas across Eastern Pennsylvania and the Delaware River into Mercer County, New Jersey, where it will interconnect with the Transco Pipeline in the borough of Pennington.

The PennEast Pipeline would draw from natural gas produced in the Marcellus shale formation that cuts across Pennsylvania, New York, and parts of Ohio and West Virginia.

‘The Least Cost Available’

Tony Cox, project manager for PennEast, told The Daily Signal in an interview that he expects energy consumers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to begin to see the benefits of the pipeline beginning in the winter of 2018-2019.

With approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission expected this fall, the seven-month construction phase would begin next spring, and the pipeline would become operational in the second half of next year, according to PennEast’s projected timeline.

“September is what we call a ‘shoulder month’ in the gas industry, because you are past the summer months, but you are not yet in the winter. This means you are in a period of low energy consumption,” Cox said, adding:

But we still see a vast disparity between the price of gas in the Marcellus region and in New Jersey. These price differences around the country are one of the drivers for natural gas infrastructure, and one of the obligations that gas utilities have is to procure the least cost of gas available.

Right now, as it relates to New Jersey, that gas is located 100 miles away in Pennsylvania. But as we can see from the price difference, there is not ample infrastructure to get the gas to where it needs to go.

As of late September, Cox noted, the price for natural gas delivery in the Marcellus Shale region was $1.79 per dekatherm (a unit of energy measurement), compared with $3.16 per dekatherm in New Jersey, according to Gas Daily, a publication that provides the oil and gas industry with analytical reports on prices in the energy markets. That’s a difference of $1.37, or 76.5 percent higher, in New Jersey.

“Right now, there’s not enough capacity to meet the energy demands of New Jersey residents during peak periods, as evidenced by the large price differentials between these two areas,” Cox said. “With PennEast, we will have the ability to dampen the impact of high-demand periods and provide cost savings.”

When the $1.37 price difference for natural gas between the Marcellus area of Pennsylvania and New Jersey is “amplified by the capacity PennEast will have to transport natural gas,” Cox said, he anticipates “more than a half of a billion dollars in savings” to New Jersey consumers.

Sierra Club Disputes Figures

The PennEast project manager is not alone in projecting substantial savings.

PennEast proponents point to a study from Concentric Energy Advisors—which describes itself as an independent management consulting and financial advisory firm focused on the North American energy industry—that found PennEast would provide  savings of more than $500 million for electricity and natural gas consumers in Pennsylvania and savings of more than $400 million for consumers in New Jersey.

Despite the intense opposition of environmental activists, who view the pipeline as a danger to the region, PennEast appears set to secure the necessary regulatory approval to move forward.

In April, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a favorable final environmental impact statement for PennEast that said any potential impact would be “adequately minimized” through mitigation efforts.

In August, the U.S. Senate confirmed the Trump administration’s nominees to the commission, providing the agency with the quorum needed to approve projects such as PennEast.

But Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, disputes the figures PennEast has circulated that show energy consumers stand to benefit financially from the new infrastructure. Instead, he anticipates the pipeline actually would raise costs.

“Individually, these companies [that are part of PennEast] have been seeking rate hikes to pay for the pipelines, because they cost money,” Tittel said. “They have to pay back investors. How does this save people money?”

Tittel also cited a report from Stephanie Brand, director of the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, who has expressed reservations about the pipeline’s cost and utility. The division’s mission is to advocate for energy consumers.

“PennEast is dangerous and unnecessary, and the PennEast companies are just trying to make money for themselves. This has nothing to do with consumers and their energy needs,” the Sierra Club leader said. “Natural gas is a commodity, and the price is set by commodity markets, and it’s just not true to say that the pipeline will lower prices.”

“The other problem is that the pipeline will pass through environmentally sensitive and scenic areas, and pass through quaint, bucolic little towns that depend on ecotourism. This is also a historic area, where [George] Washington crossed the Delaware.

“Now you’re going to have this big, ugly pipeline cutting through, and it’s going to hurt the economy,” Tittel said.

‘Alternatives Are More Expensive’

In the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of its website, PennEast provides readers with detailed answers to questions about the project’s size and scope, potential economic benefits to consumers, environmental safeguards, and restoration efforts that will take place once the pipeline is completed. A separate report from PennEast describes how natural gas development will bring both economic and environmental benefits.

Pat Kornick, a spokeswoman for PennEast, said “well-funded” anti-pipeline activists who have maintained a constant presence in the public eye and in the media are not looking out for the best interests of the people they claim to represent.

“When people question the need for a new pipeline, they are not seeing the big price discrepancies that exist between the New Jersey marketplace and the Pennsylvania portions of the Marcellus, where natural gas is produced,” she said. “Pipelines are the cheapest, most effective way to bring natural gas to market. The alternatives to pipelines, which involve the trucking and transportation of liquefied natural gas, are much more expensive.”

The funding that stands behind the environmental activism directed against natural gas development is evident from the signs littering the roadways in New Jersey, and from mailings delivered to area residents.

Every member of the coalition called ReThink Energy, cited on the opposition materials, has received substantial funding from the William Penn Foundation, a private, nonprofit charity.

Grants the foundation distributed to ReThink Energy members in recent years include $395,000 in 2017 and $582,000 in 2015 to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, $82,500 in 2016 to the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, and $227,400 in 2016 to the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

Tom Shepstone, who operates the Natural Gas Now blog, a product of his research firm based in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, told The Daily Signal that the William Penn Foundation is not permitted to do any lobbying as a private charity. But, he argued,  the organization is making an end run around the prohibition by distributing grants to environmental activists and compliant media outlets that do its bidding.

“As a private foundation, they shouldn’t be doing any lobbying, but when you think about it that’s all they do at the foundation,” Shepstone said. “When they pass out money year after year to certain groups, they are doing this to influence public policy.”

Foundation-Funded News Outlets Defend Coverage 

Shepstone said he also sees a connection between the William Penn Foundation and negative press coverage of PennEast.

Philadelphia-based WHYY Inc., which has TV, radio, and digital news operations, has received $660,000 from William Penn for its StateImpact Pennsylvania news service. Community Foundation of New Jersey, which supports the NJ Spotlight news service, has received $350,200 from William Penn.

“So much of the narrative against PennEast is written by the people who are on the same side as the people spinning the narrative,” Shepstone said. “The groups opposed to the pipeline have a shared funding source in the form of the William Penn Foundation, and you also have StateImpact Pennsylvania and NJ Spotlight, which are funded by the William Penn Foundation.

“So, when an environmental group has something negative to say about PennEast, that’s immediately picked up by these two news services to echo it and repeat it. It is so sad to see newspaper reporters not pick up on these blatant conflicts of interest,” he said.

Lee Keough, editor-in-chief of NJ Spotlight, defended his organization’s coverage in an email Wednesday to The Daily Signal.

“We receive financial support from all sides of this issue—utilities, environmental groups, the William Penn Foundation, as well as PennEast itself,” Keough wrote, adding:

Take a look at our site today … You may have to reload a few times to see all the ads. Nor do I think we have necessarily taken a critical view of the issue, although we have given it a lot of coverage. That reflects the passion that pipelines engender locally.

WHYY, the media company behind the StateImpact Pennsylvania news service, also responded to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.

“We strive to present balanced and factual information that takes into account all sides of the pipeline issue,” Sandra Clark, WHYY vice president for news and civic dialogue, said in an email.

“As with all of our reporting, no funder dictates our editorial coverage in any way and, as always, we’re sensitive to potential or perceived conflicts of interest. The issues raised about our coverage of the PennEast Pipeline have no basis in fact.”

Foundation Mum on Funding 

The Daily Signal repeatedly invited the William Penn Foundation to comment for this article on its funding of environmental groups and media organizations, and asked what its position is on PennEast. The foundation did not respond.

The Sierra Club Foundation received $300,000 from the William Penn Foundation in 2017 and $250,000 in 2016. But Tittel said his New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club and the Sierra Club Foundation are two separate organizations, and his New Jersey group has not received funding from the foundation.

Tom Gilbert, campaign director for energy, climate, and natural resources at the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, declined to address his organization’s relationship with the William Penn Foundation, but explained why his group is opposed to the pipeline.

“We oppose PennEast because it would have significant impacts on thousands of acres of taxpayer preserved open space and farmland, some of the cleanest streams in the state, and habitat for threatened and endangered species,” Gilbert said in an email to The Daily Signal, adding:

Furthermore, energy experts and the N.J. Division of Rate Counsel have concluded that there is no evidence of need for the project, and it would be ‘unfair to ratepayers.’

PennEast faces tremendous opposition in New Jersey. Approximately two-thirds of the affected homeowners have refused to grant them survey access or easements.  Every town in the path of the pipeline opposes it. Thousands of citizens spoke out against it during the FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] process.

Real or Illusory Opposition?

The idea that there is a groundswell of opposition to the pipeline on the part of the public is highly suspect, Shepstone of the Natural Gas Now blog told The Daily Signal.

“When you see all these signs out there, you have to remember that the funding behind them comes from narrow special interests that do not speak for average citizens and from one rich family at the William Penn Foundation opposed to development,” he said.

“The public stands to benefit from the pipeline and from clean, affordable natural gas. These environmental groups are just shills for the William Penn Foundation, and with their echo chamber in the media, it makes the opposition seem bigger than it really is.”

Another key player is the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, a nonprofit based in Bristol, Pennsylvania, which has been a persistent opponent of PennEast since the project was first announced.

The Riverkeeper Network has been sharply critical of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the agency’s positive environmental assessment of PennEast.

“There are very serious ramifications from PennEast for people’s health and safety,” Riverkeeper Network President Maya K. van Rossum said. “We are talking about devastation to very important habitats, wetlands, and forests, and increased pollution running off into our waterways, and this runoff contributing to erosion and the loss of habitat.”

The group released its own report on what it calls the economic costs of PennEast.

“The damage done by PennEast will far outpace any benefits,” van Rossum said. “The tradeoff is not worth it in terms of lives and livelihoods.”

The William Penn Foundation donated about $1.4 million to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network in 2017 and $914,000 in 2015. But van Rossum dismissed the idea that her organization takes direction from the foundation.

“That’s a false argument, a misrepresentation, and a red herring,” she said, adding:

We have multiple funding streams, and foundation funding is but one of them. When you apply for a foundation grant, you propose the work that you are going to do in the public interest, and the funder chooses whether or not to support that work. The funder does not give you money and then dictate what you are to do with it.

‘Held Hostage’

Jordan McGillis is a policy analyst with the Washington-based Institute for Energy Research, a nonprofit that  supports a free-market approach to energy policy. McGillis is highly critical of the role the Delaware Riverkeeper Network has played through the PennEast approval process.

“Despite their proximity to the Marcellus Shale, New Jersey and the rest of the northeastern states pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country,” McGillis said. “The reason is that they’re being held hostage by the ‘keep-it-in-the-ground’ movement. In the case of New Jersey, one of the main culprits is the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and its frivolous lawsuits.”

The energy policy analyst added:

The pernicious effect groups like this have isn’t trivial. Each pipeline delay results in New Jersey residents paying millions of dollars more than is necessary for energy. A study by Concentric Energy Advisors estimated that people in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania could have saved $900 million in the winter of 2013-2014 had something like the Penneast pipeline been operable.

When you look at the 990s [IRS tax forms], and you see that groups like the Delaware Riverkeeper aren’t the local, grass-roots movements they purport to be, but rather are funded by megadonors like the William Penn Foundation, it adds to the frustration you feel for the people who bear the costs of the seemingly endless legal delays.

Shepstone, the Natural Gas Now blogger, told The Daily Signal that the Delaware River Basin Commission’s authority over pipelines “is highly questionable,” and he expects PennEast to go forward.

PennEast is working to obtain approval from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Delaware River Basin Commission, a federal interstate agency.

But the ultimate authority rests with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Earlier this year, the New Jersey environmental agency returned PennEast’s application, saying it wanted more information.

“We are still working with all of these local agencies to obtain their approval,” Kornick, the PennEast spokeswoman, said. “With the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, they didn’t reject our application. They said it was incomplete and asked for more information, which we are providing.”

Report by Kevin Mooney. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

Environmentalists Are Spreading Wildfires. It’s Time to Rethink Forest Management.

Massive wildfires continue to rage out of control in Northern California, causing historic loss of life and billions of dollars in damage.

The images coming out of California towns, which look like bombed-out cities from World War II, are a sobering reminder of man’s occasional futility in the face of nature unleashed.

Stopping these huge blazes is, of course, a priority. The firefighters who have been battling these infernos have at times done a miraculous job under extremely difficult circumstances.

However, policymakers should also look at ways to curtail the long-term trend of growing numbers of major wildfires. While some argue that climate change is to blame for the uptick in fires, it’s also worth grappling with the drastic alterations in forest management that have occurred over the last four decades.

Many have argued that this is driving the surge in huge fires.

As a Reason Foundation study noted, the U.S. Forest Service, which is tasked with managing public wildland, once had success in minimizing widespread fires in the early 20th century.

But many of these successful methods were abandoned in large part because of efforts by environmental activists.

The Forest Service became more costly and less effective as it increasingly “rewarded forest managers for losing money on environmentally questionable practices,” wrote Randal O’Toole, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute.

Spending on the Forest Service has risen drastically, but these additional resources have been misused and haven’t solved the underlying issues.

“Fire expenditures have grown from less than 15 percent of the Forest Service budget in [the] early 1990s to about 50 percent today. Forest Service fire expenditures have increased from less than $1 billion in the late 1990s to $3.5 billion in 2016,” O’Toole wrote.

Perhaps now, Americans will begin to re-evaluate forest management policies.

In a May congressional hearing, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said, “Forty-five years ago, we began imposing laws that have made the management of our forests all but impossible.”

He went on to say that federal authorities have done a poor job of implementing methods to reduce the number of deadly fires, and that this has been devastating for America’s wildlands.

“Time and again, we see vivid boundaries between the young, healthy, growing forests managed by state, local, and private landholders, and the choked, dying, or burned federal forests,” McClintock said. “The laws of the past 45 years have not only failed to protect the forest environment—they have done immeasurable harm to our forests.”

In a recent House address, McClintock pinned the blame of poor forest management on bad 1970s laws, like the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. He said these laws “have resulted in endlessly time-consuming and cost-prohibitive restrictions and requirements that have made the scientific management of our forests virtually impossible.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has promoted a change to forest management policies, calling for a more aggressive approach to reduce the excess vegetation that has made the fires worse.

Congress is also moving to address the problem.

Members of the Western Caucus have proposed legislation to dramatically change the way forests are managed. If passed, this bill would give power back to local authorities and allow for more aggressive forest thinning without subjecting them to the most onerous of environmental reviews.

While state and federal governments can take measures to enhance forest and wilderness management, private management can also get involved to improve conditions.

One idea is to adopt a policy popularized by the school choice movement: create charter forests that are publicly owned, but privately managed. This would allow forest management to move away from top-down, bureaucratic control to a decentralized and varied system that may better conform with local realities.

As professor Robert H. Nelson wrote for The Wall Street Journal, the charter forest “would be exempt from current requirements for public land-use planning and the writing of environmental impact statements. These requirements long ago ceased to perform their ostensible function of improving public land decision making.”

Similar privatizing efforts have succeeded in the past.

No measure can truly prevent all fires, but reasonable steps can be taken to reduce the incidence of huge blazes like the ones currently engulfing California.

It’s time for lawmakers to redouble their efforts to protect American lives and property from nature’s most devastating ravages.

Commentary by Jarrett Stepman. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

EPA Pushes Back on Practice That Environmentalist Groups Used to Dictate Agenda

When environmental pressure groups can promote their agendas through closed-door rule-making with the Environmental Protection Agency, something has gone seriously wrong with the regulatory process.

This is precisely what has been happening at federal agencies in recent years—but not for much longer at the EPA. On Monday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a directive to put an end to this process, which is called “sue and settle.”

On the surface, sue and settle doesn’t sound bad. An organization sues a federal agency to compel it to issue regulations, which the agency was already required to do under the law. Instead of litigating, the agency just settles the dispute.

If only that was how it worked in practice. In reality, sue and settle has many problems. Under sue and settle, environmental pressure groups have been able to file cases, meet with the agency in private, and then settle with the agency, effectively dictating the agency’s agenda.

Even when the agency is merely agreeing to meet a deadline as required by law, the agency and the environmental group will enter into agreements that create unrealistic timelines that can lead to bad policy. They can set deadlines to avoid many of the regulatory safeguards that exist, such as proper cost-benefit analysis.

In many of these cases, there is often a question of whether a federal agency is even required to issue regulations—yet the agency simply caves to the environmental group and does as the group desires.

Even worse, agencies have worked with these environmental groups to develop the substance of regulations before they are even proposed to the public.

And very often, the public is not even aware that the agency is being sued, and will find it very difficult to intervene or have any real voice in providing a different perspective on the lawsuit.

This closed process stands in stark contrast to how the federal regulatory system is supposed to work.

The Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the federal rule-making process, was designed to provide notice to the public, allow for public participation, and give the public a meaningful voice in the regulatory process. Sue and settle circumvents this entire process.

The EPA, though, is taking action. Here’s what the EPA directive says:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the states, serves a vital role in protecting human health and the environment. When conducting agency action to achieve these objectives, the EPA must strive to promote transparency and public participation to provide the American public with due process, accountability, and a sense of fair dealing.

To stop sue and settle, the EPA explains it will do the following, among other things:

  • Inform the public that the agency is being sued.
  • Reach out to affected parties about proposed settlements.
  • Provide sufficient time for rule-makings, including to receive public comments.
  • Allow the public to comment on any proposed settlements and request public hearings.
  • Ensure that the EPA is actually required by law to issue regulations as requested by the special interests. The agency won’t take what isn’t a requirement and make it one through a settlement agreement.
  • When settling a case, seek to exclude the payment of attorney’s fees and costs to plaintiffs.

The EPA should be commended for taking this much-needed action against sue and settle. Other agencies, such as the Department of Interior, need to follow the EPA’s lead.

Congress also needs to pass legislation to do away with this sue and settle abuse so that it can’t happen in the future.

Commentary by Daren Bakst. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

This state considering banning combustion-engine vehicles

California regulators are exploring ways to eventually ban the sale of vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines, a top official told Bloomberg News.

California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols said the state, led by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, is interested in following the example set by China, which said earlier this month that it would move toward banning internal-combustion engines in the country.

“I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’” Nichols said, adding that any potential ban would be a decade or more away.

“The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California.”

Read more at The Hill.

Exxon calls NY prosecutor’s climate change probe ‘harassment’ in filing

By Ernest Scheyder and Emily Flitter

(Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp asked a New York court on Friday to reject another subpoena request from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, arguing the prosecutor’s recent claim to have found evidence Exxon misled investors was false and that he was abusing his investigative powers.

The company said Schneiderman’s allegation it had neglected to estimate the impact of future environmental regulation on new deals was “frivolous” and that no “legitimate law enforcement need” would be served by giving his office more documents.

“For a prosecutor proceeding in good faith, the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing is grounds for closing an investigation, not expanding it,” Exxon wrote in its filing with the court.

Schneiderman’s office denied the allegations.

“As detailed in our filing last week, the Attorney General’s office has a substantial basis to suspect that Exxon’s proxy cost analysis may have been a sham,” said Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for the New York attorney general. “This office takes potential misrepresentations to investors very seriously and will vigorously seek to enforce this subpoena. We look forward to next week’s hearing.”

Schneiderman sought more materials from the oil producer as part of an ongoing probe that has already reviewed nearly 3 million documents. He is examining whether Exxon misled the public about its understanding of the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the earth’s climate.

The probe has already revealed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who until December was chief executive of Exxon, used a separate email address and an alias, “Wayne Tracker,” to discuss climate change-related issues while at the company.

Testimony Schneiderman made public on June 2 offered more details about how the company handled the “Wayne Tracker” account, which was first created in 2007. Exxon employee Connie Feinstein, an information technology manager for the oil company, told prosecutors changes in the email program Exxon used, along with an automatic process that deleted internal emails after 13 months, may have erased years’ worth of “Wayne Tracker” emails.

“We realized that the automated file sweeper had not been disabled for a period of time as it should have been,” Feinstein said in the April 26 interview.

Exxon has been fighting Schneiderman’s requests for information about its climate change policies in both state and federal court, claiming it should not have to turn over records because the New York prosecutor’s probe is politically motivated.

The case is People of the State of New York v PricewaterhouseCoopers and Exxon Mobil Corporation, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 451962/2016.

 

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Houston; Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

 

Ahead of Exxon’s annual meeting, climate activists gain ground

More proof appeasement doesn’t work. — ABE

By Ross Kerber

BOSTON (Reuters) – Shareholder activists focused on climate issues are gaining traction in their push to have large energy companies and utilities take account of the impact rising global temperatures could have on their businesses.

Proponents ranging from giant New York and California state pension funds to Wespath Investment Management of Illinois scored a number of victories this month.

Those include a resolution at PPL Corp <PPL.N> approved by 57 percent of votes cast calling for the utility holding company to publicly report how it could be affected by policies and technologies aimed at limiting global warning.

The PPL result comes on the heels of a vote at Occidental Petroleum Corp <OXY.N> on a similar resolution, backed by two-thirds of votes cast. Also, top proxy advisers recommended votes in favor of a third such resolution set for Exxon Mobil Corp’s <XOM.N> annual meeting on May 31.

Activists say the developments suggest they are at an inflection point after years of seeking support from big institutional investors like BlackRock Inc. <BLK.N> The giant New York asset manager switched sides in this year’s vote at Occidental, citing concerns about the company’s pace of disclosures to date.

The reports the activists have sought through the advisory shareholder resolutions are sometimes known as “2 degree scenario analysis” reports after the goal of the 2015 Paris climate accord to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from preindustrial levels by phasing out fossil fuels.

The limits could hit companies’ bottom lines such as by reducing the revenue they can expect from extracting fossil fuel reserves. Activists hope that having the companies lay out plans for dealing with future regulatory, technology and market changes will smooth their transition to cleaner energy.

Edward Kamonjoh, executive director of the 50/50 Climate Project in Washington, which supports the resolutions, said actions by U.S. President Donald Trump like the dismantling of Obama-era climate policies may have moved big investors to take on a more active role.

While Trump has not so far followed through on a campaign promise to take the United States out of the Paris deal, investors cannot count on strong environmental regulations in the future, he said.

“Investors who feel that climate is a risk now realize they just have themselves to manage this risk in the next few years,” Kamonjoh said.

MOOD TEST

Most energy company and utility boards have urged their investors to oppose the measures, some arguing they already take climate change seriously.

A key test of investors’ mood will come at the end of May at Exxon. The largest U.S. oil & gas producer argues a climate report is unnecessary because it already conducts reviews that sufficiently test its business for impacts from changing technology and energy demand.

Exxon has offered other arguments including that it supports the Paris agreement, Exxon Secretary Jeffrey Woodbury told investors in a May 18 letter, and that it has invested nearly $7 billion since 2000 on emissions-reduction technology.

At PPL, spokesman Ryan Hill said via e-mail that its board “will carefully consider the results and determine the best path forward.” PPL is committed to sustainable energy, he said, noting steps it has taken such as retiring coal plants and building Kentucky’s largest solar power facility.

Some companies have made changes even without votes. Activists including Wespath on May 2 said they withdrew a call for a climate-change report from Chevron Corp, <CVX.N> citing an 18-page document Chevron issued in March titled “Managing Climate Risks” as a good first step.

While it did not analyze all the scenarios sought by activists, the report went further than past efforts to outline how climate change could affect its profitability.

Chevron CEO John Watson said in the report he “shares the concerns of governments and the public about climate change risks.”

Also, Danielle Fugure, president of California nonprofit As You Sow, said last month it withdrew a shareholder resolution calling for a climate risk report from Anadarko Petroleum Corp.<APC.N>. In return, she said, the Texas company agreed to continue to work with her group and others to develop methods for reporting on climate risks that would be practical for the company but still convey to investors the full extent of the risks it could face.

Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen confirmed the agreement. “We are consistently looking for ways to further enhance sustainability in our operations, as well as improve transparency regarding these efforts,” he said via e-mail.

Fugure said the high vote totals such as at Occidental show how climate change is becoming an accepted business issue. “The market itself is moving to take carbon risk into account, and the market itself will be pricing carbon risk into the value of companies,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Gary McWilliams and Ernest Scheyder in Houston; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)