The O. Zone

Energen shareholders side with Pelosi on fracking disclosure

By David O. Williams
Real AspenMay 5, 2011

Echoing sentiments expressed to Real Aspen by U.S. House Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., more than 49 percent of the shareholders of an oil and gas company in the Permian Basin of West Texas recently asked for more transparency in hydraulic fracturing operations.

Pelosi last week told Real Aspen that oil and gas operators should want to publicly disclose all the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” as protection against future litigation. Critics of the process claim it can lead to the contamination of groundwater supplies with chemicals that are kept secret from the public for proprietary reasons.

Nancy Pelosi talking with Real Aspen.
David Williams

Nearly half of the shareholders of Energen Corporation recently supported “increased transparency and accountability around its hydraulic fracturing operations,” according to SEC filings. Still, a slight majority voted to maintain the status quo.

“This vote is the highest on record for this issue and is among one of the highest votes for any environmental proposal,” Luan Steinhilber of Miller/Howard Investments said in a release. Miller/Howard filed the proposal at Energen. “In addition to the 49.5 percent voting yes among all those voting yes or no, a sizeable percentage of the voting shareholders declined to support management’s recommendation to oppose the resolution, and instead voted to ‘abstain.’

“This is a wake-up call for the company to increase disclosure on how it is managing and reducing potential risks associated with its fracturing operations,” she added.

Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette has once again proposed the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act to better regulate hydraulic fracturing, in which water, sand and chemicals are injected under high pressure into natural gas wells to free up more gas. DeGette has spearheaded recent congressional studies showing diesel fuel and 29 different human carcinogens have been used in fracking operations.

Oil and gas industry representatives countered that fracking occurs too deep to contaminate shallow drinking water supplies and that federal oversight is unwarranted because there is no evidence of fracking tainting groundwater.

Shareholders at Carrizo Oil & Gas, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Ultra Petroleum will have an opportunity to vote on the issue in coming weeks.

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