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Report claims oil, gas drillers more open about fracking risks

| Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014, 11:15 p.m.

EQT Corp. and Range Resources Corp. were among companies that improved reporting about the risks to the environment and communities from hydraulic fracturing in a scorecard from a group that pushes corporations to be more environmentally responsible.

But the report released Thursday by the coalition of investment companies and shareholder advocacy groups was still downbeat about the drilling industry's progress in disclosing information and reducing risks of their fracking operations.

“The most important takeaway is that many energy companies are still largely failing to rigorously disclose the impacts of their fracking operations,” said Richard Liroff, executive director of Investor Environmental Health Network, a coalition of shareholder advocacy groups.

The scorecard from As You Sow, Boston Common Asset Management, Green Century Capital Management and the Investor Environmental Health Network ranked 30 oil and gas companies on their use of toxic chemicals, water and waste management, air emissions and management accountability.

Companies featured in the report have become more transparent in sharing details of their fracking operations, but more needs to be disclosed to assure investors that they are working to reduce the risks, Liroff said.

EQT and Range were among just three companies credited with reporting methane leakage rates, according to the annual report, which was first compiled in 2013. The other was Apache Corp., which is based in Texas.

The rankings are based on information companies provide on their web sites, financial statements and other reports. Questions were also sent to companies so they could provide feedback about the accuracy of the scorecard and update their public disclosures, according to the report.

“It is encouraging to see some major companies turning the corner on disclosure, but we need to see a bigger commitment,” said Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow.

The scorecard's authors said the rankings are meant to spur companies to be more transparent. EQT, which scored among the top, said it has been in the process of updating its reporting of its drilling and fracking information through a separate corporate reporting project.

“We believe this approach fully satisfies the broader information needs of our shareholders, our communities and all other important stakeholders,” said Linda Robertson, company spokeswoman.

Methane emissions was a new benchmark in this year's report. Companies need to further disclose what steps they're taking to reduce leakages, said Lucia von Reusner, shareholder advocate for Green Century Capital Management.

“It's impossible to tell which companies are doing the most reduce and which companies are just blatant mismanagers of their emissions,” von Reusner said.

The Environmental Protection Agency reported in September that methane emissions in the Marcellus shale have fallen by 73 percent since 2011, mostly because of improvement in technologies to capture the gas at the wellhead and fracking techniques.

The coalition said studies cited in its report show there are still large hot spots for emissions and that it's critical for investors and the public to know where they are.

Katelyn Ferral is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5627 or kferral@tribweb.com.

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