(Adds Exxon comment)
By Ernest Scheyder
April 3 Exxon Mobil Corp, the world's largest publicly traded oil company, has agreed to disclose more information about the environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing, the process known as fracking.
In an agreement with New York City's pension funds, which control Exxon shares worth roughly $1.02 billion, the company would report on risks surrounding disposal of fracking waste water, air pollution, methane emissions from oil and natural gas wells, and other issues.
Exxon plans to compile the information and publish it as a report on its website by September.
The New York City Comptroller's office, which controls the city's pension funds, agreed as part of the deal to withdraw a shareholder proposal that would have put the disclosure issue up for a vote at the company's next annual meeting.
The comptroller's office said it essentially believes that without such information, it cannot make adequate investment decisions and thus part of the pension funds' investment could be in danger.
"Corporate transparency in this arena is truly necessary for assessing risk and ensuring that all stakeholders have the information they need to make informed decisions," Scott Stringer, the city's comptroller, said in a statement.
Last year a similar shareholder proposal received support from roughly 30 percent of shares cast at Exxon's annual meeting.
An agreement with the comptroller, rather than a confrontational shareholder vote, was the most constructive way to address concerns about fracking with the public, said Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers.
"We understand people have concerns. This activity (fracking) is somewhat new and not understood in some parts of the country," Jeffers said. "People want more information and the more they know, the better."
Exxon already discloses some information about its fracking practices through FracFocus, an online registry listing specific chemicals used for fracking across the United States.
The environmental group As You Sow, along with several religious orders, had joined the comptroller's office in filing the initial shareholder resolution.
Last month Exxon agreed to report on how it views the risks that climate change could post to the value of its assets. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Leslie Adler and Steve Orlofsky)