Category Archives: Oil and gas industry

Did North Dakota Regulators Hide an Oil and Gas Industry Spill Larger Than Exxon Valdez?

DeSmogBlog.com, By Justin Nobel • Monday, August 19, 2019 – 12:56

Exxon Valdez

In July 2015 workers at the Garden Creek I Gas Processing Plant, in Watford City, North Dakota, noticed a leak in a pipeline and reported a spill to the North Dakota Department of Health that remains officially listed as 10 gallons, the size of two bottled water delivery jugs.

But a whistle-blower has revealed to DeSmog the incident is actually on par with the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, which released roughly 11 million gallons of thick crude.

The Garden Creek spill “is in fact over 11 million gallons of condensate that leaked through a crack in a pipeline for over 3 years,” says the whistle-blower, who has expertise in environmental science but refused to be named or give other background information for fear of losing their job. They provided to DeSmog a document that details remediation efforts and verifies the spill’s monstrous size.

Up to 5,500,000 gallons” of hydrocarbons have been removed from the site, the 2018 document states, “based upon an…estimate of approximately 11 million gallons released.”

Garden Creek is operated by the Oklahoma-based oil and gas service company, ONEOK Partners, and processes natural gas and natural gas liquids, also called natural gas condensate, brought to the facility via pipeline from Bakken wells.

Neither the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which monitors coastal spills, nor the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could provide records to put the spill’s size in context, but according to available reports, if the 11-million-gallon figure is accurate, the Garden Creek spill appears to be among the largest recorded oil and gas industry spills in the history of the United States.

However, the American public is unaware, because the spill remains officially listed as just 10 gallons. That is despite the fact that a North Dakota regulator has acknowledged the spill was much larger, and even the official record, right after stating the spill was 10 gallons, notes that the area was “saturated with natural gas condensate of an unknown volume,” and thus may have been larger.

Scott Skokos, Executive Director of the Dakota Resource Council, an organization that works to protect North Dakota’s natural resources and family farms, questioned whether it was legal for the state to cover up or downplay spills.

I have seen many instances where it appears spills are being covered up, and there appears to be a pattern of downplaying spills, which makes the narrative surrounding oil and gas development look rosy and makes the industry look better politically,” says Skokos. “If this pattern is as widespread as it seems, then we have a government that is conspiring to protect the oil industry. This is not only reckless and unethical, but also potentially illegal.”

In my view,” Skokos added, “this is not looking out for the best interest of the state or the people who live in the state, it is only looking out for corporations. And these are not even corporate citizens of this state, they are corporate citizens of somewhere else.”

The Challenge of Oversight

Spills are pervasive in North Dakota’s oil industry and have been the focus of numerous media reports. “State regulators have often been unable — or unwilling — to compel energy companies to clean up their mess,” ProPublica reported in a 2012 investigation.

A 2015 Inside Energy article noted state reports “are riddled with inaccuracies and estimates” and cited a 2011 spill of oil and gas wastewater by a Texas-based company listed as 12,600 gallons but later determined to be at least two million gallons. An eight-year database of spills compiled by the New York Times in 2014 showed two spills of roughly one million gallons.

But no news agency has reported on any spill in North Dakota near the magnitude of Garden Creek.

Moisture flare at the Obenour 1 and 2 well on the Evanson family farm in McKenzie County, North Dakota, east of Arnegard and west of Watford City.
Pumpjacks and flaring in McKenzie County, North Dakota, east of Arnegard and west of Watford City. Credit: Tim EvansonCC BYSA 2.0

Gas processing plants are sprawling industrial facilities and contain numerous pipes and towers that help clean and separate the stream of natural gas and natural gas liquids like ethane, butane, and propane carried in gathering pipelines that originate at wellheads.

The explosion of fracking across the U.S. and the booming development of America’s gas-rich shale plays have planted gas processing plants, which emit a near-continuous stream of greenhouse gases and carcinogens, from the Pittsburgh suburbs and Ohio’s Amish country to the high plains of Colorado and the badlands of North Dakota.

There should be ongoing investigations of these facilities regularly,” says Emily Collins, Executive Director of Fair Shake, an Ohio-based nonprofit environmental law firm. But there isn’t.

There is so much to keep track of for these regulators that spills, among other things, are lost in the mix,” says Collins. “The old formula of having inspections and investigations where you show up once a year clearly doesn’t work here, not with the pace, not with how many places are at issue all of the sudden. We are just not able to handle it all.”

Map of western North Dakota that includes well density (number of wells per 5 km radius), reported brine spills from 2007 to 2015 (red circles), and sampling sites of samples collected in July 2015 (green triangles).
Map of western North Dakota that includes well density (number of wells per 5 km radius), reported brine spills from 2007 to 2015 (red circles), and sampling sites of samples collected in July 2015 (green triangles). Credit: Lauer et al. 2016

Meanwhile, examination of the industry, its spills, and its placid regulators has made its way to the U.S. Congress. The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources of the House’s Natural Resource Committee has been holding hearings on the impacts of oil and gas development on local communities, landowners, taxpayers, and the environment.

In May, Collins testified before the subcommittee, along with 71-year-old North Dakota farmer Daryl Peterson. He shared harrowing stories about decades of spills of toxic oil and gas industry waste on his farmland, and the utter neglect of the issue by his state’s regulators.

In my experience, regulators have been reluctant to enforce compliance,” Peterson told Congress. “And have minimized the impacts, rather than holding the oil companies accountable.”

North Dakota Regulator Disputes Size of Spill

On April 29, 2019, oversight of spills shifted from the North Dakota Department of Health to a new agency, the Department of Environmental Quality, but the state’s Spill Investigation Program Manager has remained Bill Suess.

I know for a fact that Bill Suess was made aware of Garden Creek’s size in October of 2018 after a 3-year investigation was completed to assess size and scope,” the whistle-blower told DeSmog. “Bill and state staff were presented an updated version of the spill size…at the state Gold Seal building in a PowerPoint presentation.”

In a phone conversation with DeSmog in mid-July, Suess explained that he had never seen a document showing the spill’s size to be any number other than 10 gallons, and he rejected the fact that the spill was 11 million gallons.

That would be by far the largest spill on land in U.S. history. I mean you are talking 261,000 barrels,” Suess said. “That would be significant, and I will guarantee you it is not that volume. I have received no documentation and I have no scientific evidence to show it is anywhere near that volume.”

Suess readily acknowledged that the officially listed spill size was too low. “We know it is significantly bigger than 10 gallons. We have known that since Day One,” Suess continued. Yet he defended the state’s decision to continue to list the spill as just 10 gallons.

In North Dakota we do not regulate based on volume,” Suess added. “Whether we put a 10 there, a 100 there, a 1,000 there is not going to change our response to the spill, it is not going to change what the responsible party has to do, not going to change their remediation, it is not going to change anything other than your curiosity.”

The One Million Gallon Salt Water (Brine) Spill by Crestwood, Arrow Pipeline LLC discovered July 8, 2014. Located North of Mandaree, ND.
Crestwood discovered a 1 million gallon brine spill from its Arrow pipeline on July 8, 2014. Located north of Mandaree, North Dakota, on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Mandaree is one of the six segments on Fort Berthold and where most Mandan and Hidatsa people live. Courtesy of Lisa DeVille

DeSmog presented details of the Garden Creek spill to North Dakota environmental attorney Fintan Dooley, who leads the North Dakota Salted Lands Council, an organization dedicated to remediating spills.

You got a big fish hooked here,” he said. “This has all the signs of a civil conspiracy. If instead of 10, it was 110 or 1010 gallons, one could make the determination the original report was a mistake, but to leave uncorrected a mistake this big is not an accident, it smells of deception and deliberation and this is not the first incident of deceptive record-keeping in North Dakota — I think a good question to ask is, how many state officials are implicated in covering up this story?”

The North Dakota Century Code, which contains all state laws, covers perjury, falsification, and breach of duty in Chapter 12.1-11. Subsection 05, “Tampering with public records,” states the following:

A person is guilty of an offense if he: a. Knowingly makes a false entry in or false alteration of a government record; or b. Knowingly, without lawful authority, destroys, conceals, removes, or otherwise impairs the verity or availability of a government record.”

The offense, “if committed by a public servant who has custody of the government record,” is a felony. The crime carries a possible five-year prison sentence.

DeSmog confronted Suess with this portion of the code, and asked him if he believed he, or someone, was guilty of falsifying government records. “No, I am not guilty, but if I changed that number I would be,” he said. “If I were to go in there and just change that [10 gallons] to a larger number that I don’t have any scientific evidence or documentation for, then I would be falsifying it.”

The environmental attorney Fintan Dooley does not buy that officials behaved appropriately. “There has been a lot of talk around the state capitol lately about official breach of public trust, and I am just wondering how far this practice of falsification of records will be allowed to go?” he said. “The whole thing can be prosecuted, and if this presents an opportunity to prosecute, I think that is just wonderful.” Any decisions regarding prosecution, he stresses, are up to a state attorney.

When asked exactly who would be charged with a crime, Dooley said, “If anyone is going to file a criminal charge, they must file it against an individual. If there was a whole series of people involved, the best practice would be to identify all of them.”

Spill Cleanup Amid Dakota Access Protests

North Dakota gas flare near Watford City
Natural gas flares from a flare-head at the Orvis State well on the Evanson family farm in McKenzie County, North Dakota, west of Watford City. Credit: Tim EvansonCC BYSA 2.0

Garden Creek I became operational in January 2012. The project was applauded by state and industry officials for its ability to reduce the release of the prominent greenhouse gas methane in the oilfield by containing and processing that and other natural gas byproducts. Flaring, or burning, natural gas is common in the region’s oilfields.

The completion of this facility is a positive step toward reducing flaring activities in North Dakota,” ONEOK president Terry Spencer told a Watford City newspaper in 2012. In 2015, at the time the spill was noticed, ONEOK was in the process of constructing a network of additional gas processing plants across the Bakken. In one industry press release, the company bragged of “better-than-expected plant performance at existing and planned processing plants.”

There was motive to cover up the actual size of the spill to allow their infrastructure to be completed,” says the whistle-blower. Furthermore, by the summer of 2016, as the cleanup at Garden Creek I was moving along, protests against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) at the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation were in full swing. One major concern voiced by the tribe was that a spill could destroy farmland and contaminate drinking water for thousands of people.

On August 31, 2016, “Happy” American Horse from the Sicangu Nation locked himself to construction equipment as a direct action against the Dakota Access pipeline.
On August 31, 2016, “Happy” American Horse from the Sicangu Nation locked himself to construction equipment as a direct action against the Dakota Access pipeline. Credit: Desiree KaneCC BY 3.0

Public outcry against gas collection could have threatened ONEOK’s expansion plans and might have stood in the way of the state’s flaring reduction goals,” says the whistle-blower. “It’s also possible that it could have further galvanized public opinion against the DAPL project. In short, it’s possible that the North Dakota Department of Health faced heavy pressure from both state and industry to keep this on the down low.”

David Glatt, Director of North Dakota’s Department of Environmental Quality, said, “The state makes public all spill reports it receives, so there is no under reporting by the state.” ONEOK has not responded to DeSmog’s questions on this incident. DeSmog has filed an open records request with the State of North Dakota for additional information and details related to the Garden Creek I spill.

In July, Suess told DeSmog, “Remediation is still ongoing. It is going to be a slow process, it will be a few years, I think.” Suess said he was planning to revisit the spill site but did not expect anything he found there would lead him to alter the officially recorded spill size. “I have a schedule to go out there later this month, but I still probably wouldn’t change that 10-gallon number because I still won’t have an accurate number,” he said.

North Dakotans Grapple With Impacts of Spills

In May, just as North Dakota’s planting season was beginning, I met with several North Dakota residents whose farms or communities had been marred by oil and gas industry spills, including the land of farmer Daryl Peterson, whose 2,500 acres of grains, soybeans, and corn have been contaminated by more than a dozen spills of brine.

This oil and gas waste product is loaded with salt and also contains toxic heavy metals and radioactivity. Peterson pointed to dead zones on his land that are unfit for crops though still fit for government taxes. The spills have also tainted his groundwater.

Oil and gas industry brine spill impacts on Daryl Peterson's North Dakota farm.
Daryl Peterson’s North Dakota farm has suffered from more than a dozen oil and gas industry brine spills. Courtesy of Daryl Peterson

State regulators declare most spills are cleaned up to EPA standards and land productivity is restored but very often this has not been the case,” said Peterson, who, together with his wife Christine, has farmed this land in Bottineau County, near the Canadian border, for more than 40 years.

The oil industry controls politics in North Dakota and long-term consequences to our precious land, air, and water resources are being ignored with this gold rush mentality. With the prospect of 40,000 more wells in North Dakota, the future of our bountiful agriculture state is in great jeopardy,” said Peterson.

Suess defended his agency’s methods. “What I believe the North Dakota public wants to know is not how big is it, but is this spill a risk to me,” he said. “Personally, I have actually been told by others that we are one of the most transparent agencies out there. My boss is the North Dakota taxpayer, and my door is always open, any citizen can walk in at any time and talk to me.”

However, other North Dakota residents dealing with spills strongly disagree. In May DeSmog also toured spills on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, in the heart of the Bakken oil boom in western North Dakota, with Lisa DeVille and her husband Walter DeVille Sr. The couple lives in the community of Mandaree and helps lead an environmental advocacy group called Fort Berthold Protectors of Water & Earth Rights, or POWER.

You can see the earth slowly dying,” said Lisa, who has two master’s degrees in business and returned to school to get a bachelor’s* degree in environmental science so she could better monitor all the spills and contamination on her land and advocate for her community.

Every day we have a spill,” she said. “Whether it is frac sand spilled, trucks that stall out and drop their oil on roads, trucks wrecking on the road and spilling oil and gas waste product, or our invisible spill, the methane released into the air from flaring and venting.”


Aerial view of a 1 million gallon brine spill from Crestwood’s Arrow pipeline on July 8, 2014. Located north of Mandaree, North Dakota, on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Mandaree is one of the six segments on Fort Berthold and where most Mandan and Hidatsa peoples live. Photo credit: Sarah Christianson

The North Dakota Spill Investigation Program Manager can say that his door is open, but North Dakota is protecting industry, not people, and it is upsetting to me,” Lisa added.

My people — the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation — have been here for centuries, there have been many broken promises, and they have been lied to and are still being lied to about all this oil and gas contamination. No one knows the amount of spills on Fort Berthold because industry will lie to our tribal leaders. Also, there is no data for the public to see. There are no studies, research, or analysis to create laws or codes for environmental justice.”

In July 2014, one million gallons of oil and gas waste spilled from a pipeline and into a ravine that drains into the tribe’s main reservoir for drinking water. In a 2016 paper, Duke University researchers, including geochemist Avner Vengosh, revealed the spill, as well as several others in the Bakken, had laced the land with heavy metals and radioactivity.

When asked in May 2019 if he was aware of this research, Glatt, director of the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, said he questioned Vengosh’s “initial premise” and believed the researchers were “looking for the worst case scenario.”

I haven’t seen his report; I just didn’t even know it was out there,” said Glatt. “I knew he was in the state. This is the first time I hear that he wrote a report.”

Lack of Accountability’

As lawsuits against the oil and gas industry for climate impacts continue and a growing web of grassroots groups spotlight the industry’s wide arc of pollution, the uncovering of the oil and gas industry’s vast closet of toxic skeletons seems inevitable.

Ultimately I am fed up with the rushed drilling programs and the lack of accountability when it comes to environmental impacts,” says the whistle-blower. “I am also disgusted with how state officials and city council members view these threats and deem it acceptable to potentially harm human health.”

Why, the whistle-blower added, “are we shielding the truth from public scrutiny?”

*Updated 8/20/19: This story has been updated to correct Lisa DeVille’s degree in environmental science, which is a bachelor’s, not a master’s.

Main image: The Exxon Valdez. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, public domain

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    Global Warming Study: We need early shutdowns (premature retirements) of fossil fuel plants

    Early Fossil Plant Shutdowns Will Be Needed to Hit 1.5°C Average Warming Target

    By Chris Mooney, The Energy Mix, July 14, 2019 [Full Story: Washington Post]
    Photo: Koshy Koshy/Wikipedia

    The world already has enough fossil fuel plants and high-emitting industrial facilities, buildings, and cars to drive average global warming above a 1.5°C threshold, according to an article earlier this month in the journal Nature.

    “1.5°C carbon budgets allow for no new emitting infrastructure and require substantial changes to the lifetime or operation of already existing energy infrastructure,” write a team of researchers led by Dan Tong of the University of California Irvine.

    The study concludes that existing fossil infrastructure “merely needs to continue operating over the course of its expected lifetime, and the world will emit over 650 billion tons of carbon dioxide, more than enough to dash chances of limiting the Earth’s warming to a rise of 1.5°C (or 2.7°F). That’s a level of warming that has become increasingly accepted as a scientific line-in-the-sand,” the Washington Post reports.

    “And it gets worse: Proposals and plans are currently afoot for additional coal plants and other infrastructure that would add another nearly 200 billion tons of emissions to that total. Some of these are now actually under construction. In other words, human societies would need not only to cancel all such pending projects but also timeout existing projects early, in order to bring emissions down adequately.”

    The Post points to the 41 gigatons of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere each year, 36 of them from fossil fuel burning and cement production, and compares those totals to the 420- to 580-gigaton carbon budget remaining to produce a 50 to 66% chance of limiting average warming to 1.5°C.

    “That amounts to between 10 and 14 years at current emissions, with one year, 2018, already used up and another, 2019, halfway gone,” writes climate specialist Chris Mooney. “What the new study is saying is that existing infrastructure translates into about 16 years of current emissions just on its own, with another roughly five years in the pipeline in the form of currently planned infrastructure.”

    While other research on fossil infrastructure has presented a less dire verdict, Mooney adds, “the new study contends that it contains the latest, and most plausible, estimates. Its figures for existing fossil fuel infrastructure are for 2018.”

    Study co-author Ken Caldeira of Stanford University’s Carnegie Institution for Science was involved in a similar study a decade ago, and found that existing infrastructure equated to only 1.2°C average warming.

    “A decade ago, we found, there’s not enough infrastructure, and now, over the past decade, we have built enough stuff,” he told the Post. “And a lot of that stuff that was built, was built in Asia—the rise of China, and to a lesser extent India and the other southeast Asian countries, [is] the biggest change in direction regarding amount of infrastructure.”

    Part of the problem is that those new plants are “younger”, the Post notes, meaning a longer expected operating life before they’re shut down. “And the picture is actually worse than the study suggests, because the research does not include emissions caused by human-led deforestation of tropical forests and other landscapes.”

    Elmar Kriegler of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said the new article “shows the huge role that the buildup of coal-fired power plants and heavy industry in China has played over the past 15 years,” driving recent increases in global CO2 emissions and accounting for half of the future emissions associated with new infrastructure. “If this buildup of coal infrastructure is going to repeat itself in other rapidly growing economies, notably India and South East Asia, the world will stand no chance to hold warming to well below 2.0°C.”

    At the same time, “whether it is already too late for limiting warming to 1.5°C, as the authors claim in their headline, is too early to say,” Kriegler continued. “As the article points out, this will depend on whether the world can prematurely retire some of the heavy polluting infrastructure that has been put in place.”

    The Post notes that some of those early retirements are already taking place, as solar and wind undercut coal and other forms of fossil fuel generation on price. The article also holds out hope for carbon capture technology to remove CO2 from existing fossil infrastructure.

    “To me, the optimistic take on it is that most of the emissions associated with the higher warming scenarios come from infrastructure that’s yet to be built,” Caldeira said. “So avoiding those outcomes is still within our control, and it’s largely a political and social decision.”

    But he cautioned: “I’m just hoping that nobody will be writing a decade in the future, ‘Oh, we built enough infrastructure to go through 2.0°C, but we can still avoid 2.5.’

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      California’s top oil regulator sacked after doubling fracking permits

      California Gov. Gavin Newsom orders dismissal of state’s top oil regulator

      By Janet Wilson, Palm Springs Desert Sun, July 11, 2019, 11:09 p.m. ET
      California Gov. Gavin Newsom presents his revised 2019 budget proposal May 9, 2019, in Sacramento, California.
      California Gov. Gavin Newsom presents his revised 2019 budget proposal May 9, 2019, in Sacramento, California. (Photo: Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio)

      PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday directed his secretary of natural resources to fire Ken Harris, the state’s top oil regulator, after learning from The Desert Sun/USA TODAY and watchdog groups that fracking permits have doubled without his knowledge since he took office and that seven supervisors charged with regulating the industry own shares in major oil companies.

      Ann O’Leary, chief of staff to Newsom, sent a letter to Wade Crowfoot, California’s secretary for Natural Resources, asking him to immediately make several changes in the Department of Conservation, including firing Harris.

      Harris is the head of the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, also known as DOGGR. He could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

      O’Leary also told Crowfoot to “continue at full pace the investigation you have already started related to the allegations that employees at DOGGR have holdings in energy companies, which could constitute actual or apparent conflicts of interest, and take the maximum disciplinary action appropriate under law.”

      Conflicts of interest: Watchdog groups urge California governor to fire oil regulators

      Ken Harris, Californiia Oil and Gas supervisor and head of the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources.
      Ken Harris, California Oil and Gas supervisor and head of the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources. (Photo: Calfiornia Dept. of Conservation)

      In the meantime, she directed him to ensure that all employees and contractors who own oil or gas stocks recuse themselves from all permitting decisions pending individual reviews based on new conflict rules that are being formulated.

      On Wednesday, The Desert Sun reported the pace at which fracking permits are issued has doubled since Newsom took office in January, and thousands of permits for new and re-used oil and gas wells also have been approved, angering environmental and public health groups who hoped for a phase-out of the state’s billion-dollar industry following the retirement of Gov. Jerry Brown.

      The Desert Sun also reported on the findings of two watchdog groups, Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance, who uncovered records showing that top state regulators and engineers held investments in Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Valero and other petrochemical giants.

      Almost half of the 2,300 well permits issued in 2019 have benefited oil companies invested in by agency officials, the consumer groups said.

      Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance uncovered the regulators’ personal investments and permit data through public records requests, and the two groups shared the documents with The Desert Sun and the USA TODAY Network.

      “This is a good start,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. “This shows the governor wants to change the culture at the agency to make sure it’s free of conflicts and safety comes before the oil companies’ interests. The next move has to be to hold accountable Mr. Harris’ supervisors, who were well aware that this was an agency that was permitting wells with the oil companies’ interests first in its mind and the public last.”

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        Scientists’ Climate Accountability Scorecard – Insufficient Progress from Major Fossil Fuel Companies

        Repost from Union of Concerned Scientists
        [Editor: This detailed 24-page Union of Concerned Scientists report should be required reading for every oil executive, refinery employee and oil industry supporter.  It would have been VERY interesting to see Valero included in the industry sample.  Our neighbors in Richmond (Chevron) and Rodeo/Hercules (Phillips66) will be especially interested in this report.  – R.S.]

        The 2018 Climate Accountability Scorecard – Insufficient Progress from Major Fossil Fuel Companies

         

        An in-depth analysis of eight major fossil fuel companies finds they continue to spread climate disinformation and have failed to adequately plan their businesses for a low-carbon world.

         

        Fossil fuel companies are facing increasing shareholder, legal and political pressure to stop spreading climate disinformation and to fix their business plans to achieve dramatic reductions in global warming emissions. While some companies are responding to this pressure, overall their efforts remain insufficient to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

        In 2016, when we first analyzed the actions of 8 major oil, gas, and coal companies, we found that none had made a clean break with disinformation on climate science and policy or planned adequately for a world free from carbon pollution.

        In 2018, although some companies have publicly supported the Paris climate agreement to limit harmful warming, none of these companies has set company-wide emissions reduction targets consistent with this goal. Many continue to downplay or misrepresent climate science and the dangers of carbon emissions, and all continue to support trade groups that spread climate disinformation and work to stymie needed climate policies.

        We evaluated eight companies on 28 metrics, organized in four broad areas:

        • Disinformation: Have these companies stopped spreading disinformation about climate science and policies?
        • Business Planning:  Do these companies’ business plans align with a world free from carbon pollution?
        • Policies:  Do these companies support fair and effective climate policies?
        • Disclosure:  Are these companies fully disclosing the financial and physical risks of climate change to their business operations?

        Findings

        While every company improved its score on at least one metric and saw a score decline on one or more other metrics, there was no across-the-board improvement on any specific metric, and no single company improved in every area.

        Explore each company’s score per metric in the table below. Colors indicate scores. Arrows indicate changes in each company’s performance compared to the 2016 Climate Accountability Scorecard. 

        Methodology > 

        Highlights

        • Following engagement with Barnard College over its divestment evaluation and with UCS over our 2018 scorecard findings, BP removes from the company’s website a statement that misrepresented climate science and backslid from its 2016 position.
        • Arch Coal, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil include subtle “hedging” words on their websites and/or in SEC filings, falsely suggesting the (scientific) jury is still out on the connections between global warming gases and climate change and between the burning of fossil fuels and climate impacts such as sea level rise.
        • Facing growing pressure from major shareholders, ExxonMobil and Chevron release climate risk disclosure reports. However, the reports lack commitments to reduce global warming emissions in line with the Paris climate agreement’s goal of keeping global temperature increase well below 2 degrees Celsius and striving to limit it to 1.5°C.
        • BP, Chevron, and ExxonMobil fail to mention climate liability litigation explicitly in their financial filings. More than a dozen U.S. communities have filed lawsuits to hold these fossil fuel companies, and others, accountable for climate damages and preparedness. Company shareholders need to be informed about this risk to their investments.
        • In July 2018, ExxonMobil becomes the latest oil and gas company to leave the corporate lobbying group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) after successfully pressuring the group to drop a resolution against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2009 finding that global warming gases are endangering the planet. ALEC has notoriously fought climate policies and drafted sample legislation that sought to hamper the development and use of low-carbon energy. Chevron and Peabody Energy maintain leadership positions in the group.
        • Shareholder pressure leads ConocoPhillips in 2018 to expand its disclosures of lobbying and other public policy advocacy. 

        Recommendations

        Major fossil fuel companies—including those studied in this 2018 scorecard—are substantial contributors to climate change, and therefore must take responsibility for their actions. Science now makes it possible to calculate that the eight companies in this study have contributed about 14 percent of global energy-related carbon dioxide and methane emissions driving disruptive climate change.

        These eight leading fossil fuel companies have failed to fix their business models to reduce global warming emissions from their operations and the use of their products.  At the same time, many of them have deliberately sowed public confusion about climate science and the dangers of climate change, while lobbying against needed climate policies that would help us transition to a low-carbon energy system.

        These fossil fuel companies should:

        • Renounce disinformation on climate science and policy
        • Plan for a world free from carbon pollution, developing business models that are consistent with keeping global warming well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, as agreed by world leaders
        • Support sensible climate policies to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases
        • Fully disclose climate-related risks to their business
        • Pay their fair share of the costs of climate-related damages and climate change adaptation

        As a first step toward meeting emerging societal expectations, each company in this study should:

        • If it is not yet doing so, consistently acknowledge the scientific evidence of human-caused climate change and affirm the consequent need for swift and deep reductions in emissions from the burning of fossil fuels
        • Set company-wide, net-zero emissions targets consistent with the Paris climate agreement’s global temperature goal
        • Disavow positions and actions taken by affiliated third parties—including trade associations and lobby groups—that are inconsistent with companies’ stated positions on climate science and policy
        • Publicly and consistently advocate for specific policies and/or regulations to implement the Paris climate agreement
        • Fully disclose climate-related risks they face and how they are managing them—including physical risks to their operations and financial risks related to climate liability lawsuits

        UCS and our experts, partners, and supporters are watching. We will continue to keep a close eye on major fossil fuel companies to assess their actions and words, recognize progress where it occurs, and turn up the heat on companies lagging behind.

        Appendices:

        Appendix A: Methodology > 

        Appendix B: Renouncing Disinformation on Climate Science and Policy > 

        Appendix C: Planning for a World Free of Carbon Pollution > 

        Appendix D: Supporting Fair and Effective Climate Policies > 

        Appendix E: Fully Disclosing Climate Risks > 

         

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