State Pensions Tell Oil Companies to Responsibly Prepare for the Worst

Ceres, a national network of investors, environmental organizations and other public interest groups, has kicked off a campaign among global investors with assets totaling more than $2.5 trillion, urging energy companies to be open and transparent with investors and stakeholders.

(August 10, 2010) — Following significant financial and environmental losses from BP’s oil spill, more than 50 global investors have sent letters to major energy companies, urging them to disclose information about their risk oversight measures.

Such measures would include insight relating to spill prevention and response plans for their own offshore oil operations around the world.

The letters were sent to CEOs at 27 oil and gas companies, excluding BP, and were signed by 58 global investors with collective assets totaling more than $2.5 trillion. Signatories included the New York State Comptroller, California State Treasurer, Florida State Board of Administration and the UK-based Local Authority Pension Fund Authority Forum.

“It is important for all companies involved in subsea deepwater drilling to be open and transparent with investors and stakeholders at this crucial historic moment,” wrote the investors. The letter stated that the shareholder harm that has resulted from the BP spill has shifted investor attention to governance, compliance and management systems needed to minimize risks associated with deepwater offshore oil and gas development worldwide.

Petrobras, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell — the world’s three largest deepwater oil producers — were among the 27 companies that received the letters. They have been requested to respond with detailed answers on five key topics by November 1:

1) Company investments in spill prevention and response activity, including offshore drilling and spill response capability;

2) Spill contingency plans for managing deepwater blowouts;

3) Lessons learned from the BP spill, including their position on possible new regulations and more robust enforcement on offshore drilling in the Gulf and elsewhere;

4) Possible actions to improve their safety contractor selection and oversight practices;

5) Governance systems for overseeing management of offshore oil and gas operations.

In a recent press release, Pennsylvania State Treasurer Rob McCord described the environment facing investors:

“The Deepwater Horizon disaster was a game-changer for shareholders. It demonstrated the catastrophic consequences that can result when firms fail to provide essential risk assessment…Would I invest in an offshore drilling company if its disclosure statement revealed that its ‘rapid response’ to a catastrophic oil spill involved the unproven technique of stuffing golf balls, hair clippings and shredded tires down a well? Probably not.”

California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who serves as a trustee on the board of CalPERS and CalSTRS, which have a combined $337 billion in assets, said:

“The Gulf tragedy provided dramatic evidence that investors and pensioners have high stakes in deepwater oil exploration. In my state alone, the nation’s two largest public employee pension funds have seen the value of their BP holdings plummet by $349 million. Our message is simple: investors have a right to full disclosure of the risks associated with oil companies’ offshore operations, and the prevention, response and governance measures they have in place to minimize those risks.”

To contact the <em>aiCIO</em> editor of this story: Paula Vasan at <a href=''></a>; 646-308-2742