Energy Exchange

Private equity has opportunity to step up on methane, says Harvard Management Company

Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Cappucci, Senior Vice President of Compliance and Sustainable Investing at Harvard Management Company (HMC). In a recent blog post, Michael shared his outlook on the methane opportunity for oil and gas companies, along with his opinion on the pace of change within the industry.

Below is the second part of our conversation, where Michael offers new insights on investor ESG engagement and its correlation to portfolio performance. He also talks about private equity’s somewhat quiet stance on methane, and the sector’s potential to bring about change among mid-size operators that have yet to tackle methane emissions.

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Investors call on BP, Exxon, Shell to defend EPA methane regulations

Last week, investors representing $1.9 trillion assets under management called on 30 oil and gas companies, urging them to publicly oppose the EPA’s proposed weakening of its methane rules. This letter is signed by investors including CalSTRS, the New York City Comptroller’s Office, and Robeco, all of which have joined together to say no to these regulatory rollbacks.

Investors look to minimize risk while maximizing value. Methane emissions are a risk, and the proposed rule changes will increase emissions by the EPA’s own estimates. So it is no surprise that investors with nearly $2 trillion worth of assets are speaking up to defend this risk-reducing rule.

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Chevron shareholders made methane a key priority at annual general meeting

Yesterday morning at Chevron’s annual general meeting, a shareholder resolution calling on the company to improve its methane management and disclosure received a 45% vote. This strong vote follows a majority vote at Range Resources, where 50.3% of voting shareholders supported a similar methane disclosure resolution (up from just 20% in 2013). Oil and gas industry shareholders are sending a powerful message– methane is a material risk that companies must manage to compete in a capital- and climate-constrained world.

Such resolutions are effective at driving change, even for non-majority votes like the 38% of shareholders at Kinder Morgan who supported a methane resolution. For example, last year ExxonMobil’s methane resolution received a 39% vote, and the company responded with a new methane emissions production program, which now includes a quantitative methane reduction target.

Investors will be waiting to see if these companies follow ExxonMobil’s example, as well as deliver results once these programs are implemented. With investors tilting their portfolios towards companies who proactively manage climate risk, they will be closely watching how these companies respond to the clear market demand for improved methane management and disclosure.

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