FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
‘Climate Watch’ Company Ultra Petroleum (UPL) Faces Shareholder Resolution on its Global Warming Strategy
Nation’s Second Largest Public Pension Fund and Proxy Advisory Firms Support the Resolution
Climate change laggard Ultra Petroleum will face a shareholder resolution at its annual meeting on May 21 seeking greater disclosure on its climate change business strategy.
Filed by the Nathan Cummings Foundation for the fourth consecutive year, the resolution also has the support of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), and Miller Howard Investments, both co-filers, and two proxy advisor firms, RiskMetrics and ProxyGovernance.
Support for the resolution, which simply asks that a committee of independent directors of the Board prepare a report on the company’s plans to address climate change, has grown from 20 percent of shareholders in 2006 to 37 percent in 2008.
“Despite growing investor support for this resolution, Ultra continues to resist shareholder requests to disclose its strategies for addressing climate change,” said Laura Shaffer, Director of Shareholder Activities at the Nathan Cummings Foundation. “Ultra lags its competitors in terms of both disclosure and concrete actions to address climate change related risks.”
Ultra was named by investors to a Climate Watch List of nine companies that lag behind their industry peers and are potentially undermining their long-term competitiveness in responding to the business challenges from global climate change. A network of investors, worth $2 trillion in assets, issued the Watch List in February.
Ultra has not only ignored investors’ requests for information, it has also failed to respond to requests from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) for investment-relevant information on climate change. The Houston-based, independent exploration and production company is one of only a few oil and gas companies of its size ($5 billion or more in market capitalization) to not respond to the CDP.
According to RiskMetrics, “The progress the company has made in acknowledging climate change risks is insufficient given the significant level of shareholder support for similar resolutions in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Support for this proposal is warranted because increased disclosure could enable the company to take a comprehensive, long-term approach to climate change that is more likely to enhance shareholder value than a short-term, reactive approach.”
“Ultra appears to have given little thought to the strategic implications of climate change for its business,” said Anne Sheehan, CalSTRS Director of Corporate Governance. "Companies in every industry—especially energy sectors—must assess and mitigate climate change risks and opportunities and disclose this information to investors.” CalSTRS is the nation’s second largest pension fund, overseeing $111 billion in assets.
“We're hopeful that this will be a breakthrough year for Ultra Petroleum and they will finally make a commitment to address their climate change issues,” said Luan Steinhilber, Director of Social Research at Miller Howard Investments.
The resolution filed with Ultra is one of a record 63 global warming resolutions filed with 56 U.S. companies and one Canadian company as part of the 2009 proxy season. The shareholder filings are coordinated by the Ceres investor coalition and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a group of faith-based investors.
“Carbon regulations are a train that can’t be stopped, and energy companies like Ultra should be doing all they can to minimize their exposure to climate-related risks while maximizing their opportunities in clean energy,” said Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental groups.
Ceres is a leading coalition of investors, environmental groups and other public interest organizations working with companies to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change.
The Nathan Cummings Foundation is a private grantmaking foundation rooted in the Jewish tradition and committed to democratic values and social justice.
The California State Teachers' Retirement System, with a $111.6 billion portfolio, is the second largest public pension fund in the United States. It administers retirement, disability and survivor benefits for California's 833,000 public school educators and their families from the state's 1,400 school districts, county offices of education and community college districts.
Miller/Howard Investments is an independent, employee-owned investment firm offering separate account management of high-quality dividend growth portfolios for investors seeking income and preservation of capital.