Not long after UT-Austin published an "unprecedented" study (funded by the gas industry, whoops) claiming that fracking wells are safe from methane leaks, a bunch of investors are now accusing one gas company of being dishonest about its methane problem.
The natural gas industry has aggressively fought off accusations over the years that fracking wells leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas that scientists say greatly contributes to global warming.
Fort Worth-based Range Resources went so far as to counter-sue a homeowner who accused the company of leaking methane into his water. That homeowner, a Parker County resident named Steve Lipsky, is famous for lighting his water on fire in footage on YouTube and in the Gasland documentary. The EPA first stepped in and said the contamination was Range's fault. But when Range countersued Lipsky, the EPA withdrew its order against Range last year. It was one of several instances that lead some to say that the EPA is getting corrupted by industry pressure. (Here's Brantley's cover story on the Range Resources vs. Steve Lipsky battle).
But while Range might not be doing too much contaminating according to the EPA's standards, an investment company called Trillium Asset Management is not impressed. Last week, Trillium announced that it was removing Range from its Buy List. "Trillium believes that the company's current level of disclosure related to methane leakage is woefully inadequate," the investment group said in a statement.
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Trillium, which markets itself as a socially responsible investment group, explains that earlier this year it had asked the Range to demonstrate how it would handle potential methane emissions. Range management responded with an SEC filing that "attacked" shareholders' rights, according to Trillium.
"The company's response is in sharp contrast to some industry peers that appear ready to address the issue of fugitive methane emissions and work with its shareholders," Trillium added.
A Range investor relations spokesman hasn't returned a call for comment. If they do call back, we expect them to be very convincing: Range is the company that local environmental activist Sharon Wilson, author of the Blue Daze blog, found out had hired ex-military psychological operations experts.
"We have several former psy-ops folks that work for us at Range, because they're very comfortable dealing with localized issues and local governments," Range Resources Matt Pitzarella reportedly said.