San Ramon, CA – Much will be said at the Chevron Corporation’s shareholder conference this week; the agenda is full. However, there will be little said about Chevron’s involvement in controversial projects concerning tar sand. Despite the requests of shareholders owning $31.4 billion dollars, Chevron will remain quiet, keeping the Alberta tar sand projects off the agenda.
Tar sand, a source of non-conventional oil, consists of bitumen, a sticky, tar-like form of petroleum which is so thick and heavy that it must be heated or diluted before it will flow. Harvesting tar sand requires huge amounts of energy and water.
In addition to heavy water use, extraction of Alberta’s Athabasca oil sands also involves clear-cutting of the Boreal Forest, formation of toxic “tailings” lakes, habitat destruction of iconic species such as the woodland caribou, and up to five times higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil extraction. All of these factors lead Canada’s Environmental Defence to label tar sand development “the most destructive project on Earth.”
Such environmental impacts have shareholders, including Green Century Capital Management – an environmentally responsible investment firm, up in arms. They worry that Chevron faces regulatory, reputational, and competitive risks surrounding the tar sands projects.
It is these same risks that sparked a resolution filed by Green Century for increased disclosure regarding the tar sands projects at last year’s annual meeting. The tar sands resolution was ignored by Chevron on grounds that it was substantially identical to a request by other shareholders for company-wide goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Rob Berridge, Program Manager of Ceres’ Investor Programs, stated that “In addition to climate-related risks, the resolution that Chevron excluded specifically asks the company to address risks related to: ‘water resources… biodiversity… and indigenous populations.'” Berridge continued to say that it was undisclosed risks such as these that lead to the current financial crisis. Green Century is one of 81 members of the Ceres-operated Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR).
Green Century’s Shareholder Advocate, Emily Stone is also concerned with the undisclosed risks. “Chevron’s eagerness to keep shareholders from voting on this resolution…shows a disturbing lack of transparency and unwillingness to confront the challenges surrounding the company’s investments in the increasingly risky tar sands,” she said.
Green Century and other shareholders are requesting a meeting with Chevron executives directly involved with the tar sands projects in order to gain more transparency on the subject.
Shareholders aren’t the only ones concerned with tar sand projects. In a Spring 2007 survey commissioned by the Pembina Institute, 88% of Albertans surveyed agreed that new tar sands mines should only be approved if companies can demonstrate that they can return mined areas back to the way they were before mining began; and 70% favored total over intensity-based GHG reduction targets, even if it costs the industry more.
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