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Top Asset Managers That Support Environmental Shareholder Proposals

Environmental shareholder activism at publicly traded companies in the U.S. features some of the largest investors in the world supporting proposals sponsored by some of the smallest investors in the world. From 2015 to the present, most environmental shareholder proposals were brought to annual meetings of companies by relatively unknown investment groups such as As You Sow, Mercy Investment Services, The Park Foundation, Trillium Asset Management, Calvert Asset Management, The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and the Presbyterian Church of the USA. Only occasionally have these proposals been co-sponsored or sponsored by significantly larger pension funds in the U.S. market known for their interests in corporate environmental policy. With these proposals, these small investors have commanded degrees of attention at corporations highly disproportionate to their usually miniscule ownership stakes. The 2017 proxy season is likely to bring continued increases in visibility for these investors, with added support from a few of the world’s leading asset managers.

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  • 16
  • May
  • 2017

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D.C. Circuit Suspends Proceedings in Clean Power Plan Case

On Friday, April 28, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (the “D.C. Circuit”) granted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA’s”) request to suspend litigation in two cases considering the Clean Power Plan (the “CPP”). The D.C. Circuit’s orders come after the D.C. Circuit heard en banc oral arguments in one of the cases, West Virginia v. EPA, 15-1363, last year. The D.C. Circuit’s orders required the parties to file supplemental briefing on the question of whether the CPP should be remanded to EPA, which they have filed. A key question to be decided based on this briefing is the effect of a remand on the Supreme Court’s February 2016 stay on the CPP. This post discusses the background of the CPP cases, the D.C. Circuit’s orders, and potential scenarios if the D.C. Circuit decides to remand the CPP to EPA.

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How Leading Institutional Investors Vote on Environmental Shareholder Proposals

Leading U.S. asset managers are increasingly eager to explore the proposition that environmentally conscious policies drive shareholder value, but many of the same asset managers have not frequently voted for environment-related shareholder proposals on the proxy statements of U.S. public companies. The 2017 proxy season will test the readiness of major institutional investors to back environmental shareholder proposals and will reveal whether their past reluctance to do so has eased since 2016.

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  • 03
  • April
  • 2017

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Is President Trump’s Climate Executive Order Good for Business?

On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that seeks to entirely reverse the Obama Administration’s climate policies. Widely anticipated and discussed as a “climate change” order, the Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, is actually a sweeping statement regarding the President’s desire to comprehensively reduce regulatory burdens across the energy industry. The stated purpose of the Executive Order—to promote the development of American energy resources—raises the question of whether what the order seeks to accomplish is good for the energy industry.

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Corporate Boards Keep Watch: BlackRock Again Emphasizes Linkages between Climate-Friendly Policies and Market Value

Institutional investors are increasingly emphasizing linkages between protection of the environment and long-term shareholder value in an effort to both strengthen shareholder value and to encourage other investors to seek more environmentally-conscious policies in the companies in which they invest. These large asset managers are paying attention to environmental factors in their portfolio management and engagement decisions not just to benefit the world, they say, but to protect and increase company value. For the moment, climate-related aspects of environmental protection are receiving a particularly high degree of attention from environmentally-focused asset managers and investors.

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Major Investment Manager Makes Climate-Related Disclosure a Priority for 2017-2018

Earlier this month the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, Inc., announced five “engagement priorities” for the coming year. Improving climate risk disclosure made BlackRock’s priority list alongside the more traditional areas of focus: governance, corporate strategy, compensation and human capital. BlackRock stated it will “engage companies most exposed to climate risk to understand their views on the TCFD [Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures] recommendations and to encourage them to consider using this reporting framework as it is finalized and subsequently evolves over time.”

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  • 14
  • March
  • 2017

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EPA Withdraws Request for Information About GHG Emissions From the Oil and Gas Industry

On March 2, 2017, EPA announced that it was withdrawing its information collect request (the “ICR”) asking owners and operators in the oil and natural gas industry to provide information on equipment and air emissions at existing oil and gas operations. The withdrawal is effective immediately, meaning owners and operators—including those who have received an extension to their due dates for providing the information—are no longer required to respond to the request. Unlike other actions taken by the prior administration’s EPA, such as final regulations promulgated in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), the ICR could be withdrawn without notice and comment, because it was not a rule subject to APA procedures.

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  • 09
  • March
  • 2017

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Automakers Request that EPA Withdraw Final Determination Vehicle Emission Standards and Resume Midterm Evaluation

On Tuesday, February 21st, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (“Alliance”), an association representing twelve of the leading manufacturers of cars and light trucks in the United States, formally requested that EPA withdraw the Final Determination on the Appropriateness of the Model Year 2022-2025 Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards under the Midterm Evaluation (“Final Determination”).

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  • 17
  • February
  • 2017

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Beyond Regulations: What Additional Changes to Climate Change Policy Could Happen Under the Trump Administration?

The few public statements from then-candidate Trump regarding climate policy indicated that he will seek to reverse much of his predecessor’s course on laws and policies pursued in the name of preventing climate change, including the Paris Agreement and the Clean Power Plan. The President has also stated that he wants to cut regulations by 75%, and released an Executive Order limiting the creation of new regulations. But even outside of the realm of formal regulations, there are a number of climate-related policies of the previous administration that could be impacted by President Trump’s policy preferences.

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With the Clean Power Plan Under Attack Could a Climate NAAQS be Next?

While on the campaign trail, President Trump made several statements suggesting that he will seek to reverse many of the regulations and guidance documents that constitute President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, including the Clean Power Plan. Recent actions and statements by the Trump Administration have further signaled the potential for a significant reversal of U.S. climate policy. Given that the new Administration is unlikely to pursue further policies aimed at cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and may even attempt to roll back some existing regulations, many environmental organizations and think tanks are considering alternative measures to achieve emission reductions.

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  • 17
  • January
  • 2017

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GAO Recommends Incorporating Forward-Looking Climate Information into Design Standards and Building Codes

On January 3, 2017, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a report concluding that better coordination among — and the sharing of forward-looking climate information between — federal agencies could result in significant government cost savings. Forward-looking climate information includes weather models constructed using anticipated trends in climate change and other plausible projections of what might happen under a given set of assumptions, such as projected rainfall rates. The GAO observed that, over the last decade, “the federal government has incurred direct costs of over $320 billion due to extreme weather events,” including costs related to repairs of federal infrastructure. These costs may continue to rise as the climate changes, with extreme weather events becoming more frequent. The GAO concluded that — as the owner, operator, and insurer of property vulnerable to climate impacts — the federal government stands to benefit from the incorporation of forward-looking climate information into building codes, standards, and certifications. However, design standards and building codes generally use historical climate observations, and standards-setting organizations have identified various challenges to using forward-looking climate information. The GAO report finds that improving interagency coordination and providing the best available forward-looking climate information to standards-setting entities could help address many of these challenges.

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  • 22
  • December
  • 2016

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Happy Holidays

The contributors to the Climate Change Blog wish you a wonderful holiday season and a very happy new year. We will be taking some time away from the blog, but will return in early 2017.

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  • 13
  • December
  • 2016

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Two New Class Action Complaints Against Exxon Allege Climate Fraud

In November, two class action complaints were filed against Exxon Mobil — Ramirez v. Exxon in the Northern District of Texas and Fentress v. Exxon in the Southern District of Texas. Ramirez is a purported class action for purchasers of Exxon common stock, while Fentress alleges class action claims under Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) on behalf of current and former Exxon employees who participated in an employee stock option plan during the class period. Both of these cases rest upon a very similar set of factual allegations, and are significant as the potential beginning of a new type of climate change litigation.

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  • 06
  • December
  • 2016

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85-Year Climate Forecasts Prompt Species Listing Under the Endangered Species Act

In late October, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NOAA Fisheries) decision to list the Beringia distinct population segment (DPS) of the Bearded Seal as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).1 This listing decision was controversial because the Beringia DPS is not facing any imminent or serious threat or reduction to its population. Indeed, NOAA Fisheries acknowledged that the Beringia DPS currently has a large, widely distributed, and genetically diverse population. Nevertheless, NOAA Fisheries concluded that the Beringia DPS was threatened, based primarily on climate change models that predict the loss of sea ice by the year 2095 in ways that would likely affect the seal’s significant life functions and endanger the seal. This is the first time NOAA Fisheries has looked so far into the future to form a basis to list a species as threatened that is currently faring well.

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Margaret E. Peloso

Margaret E. Peloso Counsel

Eric Groten

Eric Groten Partner

George C. Hopkins

George C. Hopkins Partner

Michael B. Wigmore

Michael B. Wigmore Partner

Mattew T. Dobbins

Matthew Dobbins Senior Associate

Yun Ji Senior Associate

Tyler E. Robinson

Tyler E. Robinson Senior Associate

Theresa Romanosky

Theresa Romanosky Associate

Corinne Snow

Corinne Snow Associate

Brandon M. Tuck

Brandon M. Tuck Senior Associate