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Responding to Investor Pressure, ExxonMobil Agrees to Disclose Fracking Risks

A coalition of shareholders has persuaded the energy giant to disclose the potential liabilities associated with shale drilling.

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“The public is skeptical of anything we say,” Tisha Conoly-Schuller, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association  warnedexecutives gathered at a shale industry conference in Colorado in 2011. Indeed, 49% of Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Center opposed fracking in September 2013, a sharp spike from the 38% opposed in March of that year.

Exxon is also changing its tone on the broader risks associated with climate change. This week, Exxon also  released a report delving into the potential concerns that climate change poses for the company’s investors and how the company plans to manage those risks.  That report, issued on Monday, was also the result of shareholder activism by As You Sow. 

The jury is out on whether Exxon's recently announced report is a publicity stunt or an actual reckoning with the need for public disclosure of risks.

“We understand people have concerns. This activity (fracking) is somewhat new and not understood in some parts of the country,” Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers  told Reuters. “People want more information and the more they know, the better.”

Sharon Kelly is an attorney and freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia. She has reported for The New York Times, National Wildlife, Earth Island Journal, and a variety of other publications. Prior to beginning freelance writing, she worked as a law clerk for the ACLU of Delaware.

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