Trump’s SEC Blocks Shareholder Climate Resolution at Oil Company’s Request
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has blocked a shareholder resolution to set greenhouse gas-emissions targets, setting a troubling precedent for shareholders who want to use their collective power to fight climate change, Axios reported Monday.
The investment firm Trillium Asset Management had intended to propose a resolution at an annual shareholders' meeting this spring calling on EOG Resources, the largest oil-producer in Texas, to set dates for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But EOG complained to the SEC in December, asking the government agency to bar the resolution from a vote on the grounds that it would "micro-manage" the company.
The SEC ruled in EOG's favor in February, and rejected an appeal from Trillium in March, marking the first time that the SEC has ruled to block an emissions-related proposal for non-technical reasons.
"What the SEC has done here really feels like interfering with the marketplace, substituting their judgment for what shareholders and investors already think and do," Trillium shareholder-advocacy director Jonas Kron told Axios.
Trillium is far from the first investment group to use a similar proposal as an attempt to push fossil-fuel companies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Axios cited data from the Sustainable Investments Institute saying that 130 such resolutions had been proposed since 2010.
According to Adam Kanzer of Domini Impact Investments, this decision is likely not a part of the larger Trump administration attack on climate action, but rather part of a business-led push to reduce shareholder proposals generally. A month before EOG complained, the SEC issued a legal guidance that seemed to broaden the definition of "micro-management," and the SEC rejected other moves by companies to block climate-related shareholder proposals when those complaints did not use the "micro-management' argument.
However, if the EOG decision is part of a shift in SEC policy, it could still have a negative impact on the efforts of shareholders to push companies on climate change.
"If the SEC is shifting its view on what micromanagement means, it has implications for almost any proposal you file, from human rights to the environment," Kanzer told Axios.
President Donald Trump's appointee for SEC chairman, Jay Clayton, has not expressed the same outright hostility to climate science as other influential members of the administration. Before heading the SEC, Clayton worked at a law firm that encouraged its fossil-fuel industry clients to disclose climate-related risks to investors in compliance with a 2010 SEC directive, The International Business Times reported.
The International Business Times cited concerns that the Trump administration might move to overturn that directive, which issued guidelines for how publicly traded companies should report the potential impacts of climate change on their businesses. However, a new report on the requirement publicized by the Government Accountability Office Monday said that the SEC had no plans to alter the directive in any way.
Shareholder Group Urges Shell to Go Green https://t.co/dpOgyJr6Ha @NRDC @350 @SierraClub @ClimateReality @ClimateNexus @DeSmogBlog #shell— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1522069513.0
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Polyproylene fibers found in one of the sampled sharks. Kristian Parton
Spiny dogfish. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons<p>"There appear to be two routes for these particles to end up in the sharks," Parton said. "The first through their food source [such as] crustaceans. Their prey may already contain these fibers, and consequently it's passed to the shark through bioaccumulation up the food chain. The second pathway is direct ingestion from the sediment. As these sharks feed, they'll often suck up sediment into their mouths, some of this is expelled straight away, although some is swallowed, therefore fibers and particles that may have sunk down into the seabed may be directly ingested from the surrounding sediment as these sharks feed."</p><p>Some sharks only contained a few plastic particles, but others contained dozens. The larger the shark, the more plastic was in it, the findings suggested. The highest number of microplastics was found in an individual bull huss, which had 154 polypropylene fibers inside its stomach and intestines.</p><p>"It's perhaps likely this individual shark had swallowed a larger piece of fishing rope/netting and this has broken down during digestive processes within the shark, and also broken down into smaller pieces during our analysis," Parton said.</p>
Lesser-spotted dogfish caught as bycatch. Kristian Parton<p>While this study only examined the stomach and digestive tracts of demersal sharks, Parton says it's possible that plastic would be present in other parts of the sharks' bodies, such as the liver and muscle tissue. However, more research would be needed to prove this.</p><p>At the moment, there is also limited understanding of how microplastic ingestion would impact a shark's health, although microplastics are known to negatively influence feeding behavior, development, reproduction and life span of zooplankton and crustaceans.</p><p>"If we can show that these fibers contain inorganic pollutants attached to them, then that could have real consequences for these shark species at a cellular level, impacting various internal body systems," Parton said.</p>
Parton in the lab. Kristian Parton<p>This new study demonstrates how pervasive and destructive plastic pollution can be in the marine environment, according to Will McCallum, head of oceans for Greenpeace U.K.</p><p>"Our addiction to plastics combined with the lack of mechanisms to protect our oceans is suffocating marine life," McCallum said in a statement. "Sharks sit on top of the marine food web and play a vital role in ocean ecosystems. Yet, they are completely exposed to pollutants and other human impactful activities. We need to stop producing so much plastic and create a network of ocean sanctuaries to give wildlife space to recover. The ocean is not our dump, marine life deserves better than plastic."</p>
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By Loveday Wright and Stuart Braun
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<div id="bb0a7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e5aefc0fff61ab1aea2f4b03c5399864"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1291765757013983238" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The #oilspill is devastating but I want to honour the community mobilisation at the Mahebourg waterfront today (to… https://t.co/UWFkZFdjdi</div> — Fabiola Monty (@Fabiola Monty)<a href="https://twitter.com/LFabiolaMonty/statuses/1291765757013983238">1596815930.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"Booms are made of nylon mesh filled with #sugarcane straws all hand-stitched by Mauritian volunteers, empty plastic bottles used as buoys," described Mauritian journalist Zeenat Hansrod in a tweet. </p>
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