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Fracking Scorecard:  Despite Progress, 70 Percent Of Oil & Gas Companies Fail To Disclose Risks To Investors

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Inadequate Reporting of Methane Leakage Risks Found; BHP Billiton Ranked Best for Overall Disclosure, Hess, Apache, Noble Energy and CONSOL Energy Round Out Top Five.

The 2015 edition of an annual investor scorecard ranking the 30 largest oil and gas companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” finds improved risk disclosure by a few companies, even as 70 percent of the energy companies continue to get failing marks.

Available online at www.disclosingthefacts.org, the third annual Disclosing the Facts report from As You Sow, Boston Common Asset Management, and the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN) gauges how well the oil and gas companies do in providing information so that investors can accurately assess how, or whether, these companies manage key risks of fracking, including use of toxic chemicals, water consumption and water quality, waste management, air emissions, methane leakage, and community impacts.

Eight oil and gas companies made substantial progress in their 2015 disclosures, spurred in part by the earlier scorecards as well as by shareholder engagements involving a wide range of investors. BHP Billiton emerged as the highest-scoring company for the second year in a row — almost doubling its 2014 score from 18 to 32 points, out of a possible 39 points.  Hess (2nd), Apache (3rd), and Noble (tied for 4th) built on their leadership positions from 2014, disclosing information for about half of the scorecard indicators. Also tied for fourth, CONSOL nearly quadrupled its 2014 score, jumping from five to 19 points by securing third-party certification for compliance with the best practice standards of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development.

In addition to the top five companies, three other companies — Southwestern Energy Co. (6th), Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (tied for 7th), and QEP Resources, Inc. (tied for 7th) — made substantial gains in 2015.

Exxon Mobil, the largest of the companies scored, earned 4 points, placing it in the bottom third of the industry.

The new report also scores companies on their disclosure of methane leakage, a key concern because methane is far more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2).  For the second year in a row, most companies failed to disclose their methane leakage rate or how often they monitor for leakage. In 2015, just five of 30 companies disclosed their methane emission rates from drilling and other operations.  Not a single company reported establishing public methane emission reduction goals.

“The results of the 2015 scorecard show that corporate disclosure efforts have increased among a core group of industry leaders, despite enormous financial write-offs by the industry,” said Richard Liroff, executive director of IEHN. “A handful of companies have clearly responded and risen to our challenge.  Unfortunately, reporting on many of the key metrics is still absent for most companies, making it difficult for investors and the public to assess and compare performance. Methane reporting, in particular, is almost non-existent among the companies we surveyed.”

“It is encouraging to see a new company—CONSOL– jumping into the top five in this year’s scorecard.  But we need to see a bigger commitment from the industry in general,” said Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow. “While progress has been made, companies must improve their local disclosures — their social license to operate is often determined by local concerns such as land and water use, air and water pollution, and nuisances such as noise, light pollution, traffic, and road damage.”

“The report shows that several good practices are becoming more widespread. We see companies continue to pursue operating innovations that not only save money but also yield environmental benefits. These include, for example, substituting pipelines for trucks to move water and waste water, enhancing leak detection and repair efforts, and using less, but safer and more cost-effective chemicals,” said Steven Heim, managing director of Boston Common Asset Management. “Absent greater disclosure on things like methane, other air emissions, and growing concerns around induced seismicity, investors have no way of crediting those companies making meaningful efforts to adopt best practices and mitigate their impacts on communities and the environment.”

This 2015 scorecard benchmarks the public disclosures of 30 companies on 39 key performance indicators. It distinguishes companies disclosing more about practices and impacts from those disclosing less. The scorecard assesses five areas of environmental, social, and governance metrics emphasizing, on a play-by-play basis, quantitative disclosures for: (1) toxic chemicals; (2) water and waste management; (3) air emissions; (4) community impacts; and (5) management accountability.  It relies solely on publicly available information companies provide on their websites or in corporate financial statements or other reports linked from their websites.

The five most widely reported indicators include: substituting pipelines for trucks to transport water for fracturing (23 companies); declaring a practice to use non-potable water instead of fresh water for fracturing whenever feasible (19 companies); avoiding use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing fluids (16 companies); relying on independent third-party databases to screen potential contractors (16 companies); and linking compensation of senior management to health, safety, and environment metrics (15 companies).

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Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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