Sisters of St. Francis’ Unholy Agenda
Religion & Liberty Online

Sisters of St. Francis’ Unholy Agenda

Religious shareholder activism continues its war on affordable, domestically produced energy in a campaign that can only be described as unholy. The first casualties of this war are the nation’s 10.5 million job seekers, the millions more who have quit looking for work, and the poor. The 2014 proxy resolution season finds the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia joining other shareholders to force a May 2014 vote at Chevron Corp., which would require the company to report hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) risks.

According to Houston Business Journal reporter Jordan Blum:

The effort is part of a larger one involving other shareholder activist groups that are pushing the same issue with Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM), Houston-based Occidental Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: OXY), Houston-based EOG Resources Inc. (NYSE: EOG) and Irving-based Pioneer Natural Co. (NYSE: PXD).

Blum continues:

The domestic shale boom and Houston’s economic growth in recent years have received major assists from hydraulic fracturing. Although Chevron is based out of California, it is one of Houston’s 10 largest energy employers with more than 7,000 local workers, according to Houston Business Journal research.

A new filing on Chevron with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by the Catholic order argues that fracking “continues to be linked to significant environmental and social impacts that could have financial implications for the company due to increased community opposition and regulatory scrutiny.” The filing notes that fracking “uses millions of gallons of water mixed with thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals to extract natural gas from underground shale formations.”

Along with the economic benefits recognized by Houston and its 7,000 local Chevron workers, the shale-boom has more far-reaching benefits for the nation’s households requiring heat and light, especially those Americans in desperate need of a good paying job to support their families. Here’s an eye opening statistic: The average oil and natural gas worker earns about $107,000 a year; by comparison, the rest of the private sector workforce earns an average of $44,000 a year.

And why is the Religious Left blind to the fact that America’s booming energy industry – in no small way due to shale oil and natural gas – is the envy of just about every developing country?

As Bjorn Lomborg pointed out this week in an excellent Earth Day commentary titled, “The deadliest environmental threat (it’s not global warming)”:

One-third of the world’s people — 2.9 billion — cook and keep warm burning twigs and dung, which give off deadly fumes. This leads to strokes, heart disease and cancer, and disproportionately affects women and children. The World Health Organization estimates that it killed 4.3 million people in 2012. Add the smaller death count from outdoor pollution, and air pollution causes one in eight deaths worldwide.

The International Energy Agency – a non-governmental organization with 28 member countries – identifies energy poverty as the “lack of access to modern energy services” such as “household access to electricity and clean cooking facilities (e.g. fuels and stoves that do not cause air pollution in houses).”… Alleviation of energy poverty, claims the IEA, is “crucial to human well-being and to a country’s economic development.”

The Sisters of St. Francis, however, would ensure global energy poverty expands rather than contracts.

Blum reports that Chevron’s board of directors opposes the sisters’ resolution. The board argues the company “has in place well-developed risk management systems in its natural gas from shale development operations that help ensure water is sourced, used, managed, and protected.”

The board adds:

We also maintain a strong commitment to stakeholder engagement and disclosure that supports these operations and addresses public concerns…. Activities to develop natural gas from shale are regulated and reported at the local, state, and federal level, and the production of a special report would be duplicative of Chevron’s current extensive reporting and would not result in meaningful additional information.”

By their actions, the Sisters of St. Francis would add another layer of bureaucracy to Chevron’s reporting practices, thereby adding unnecessary expenses that will be passed on to – you guessed it – the very consumers least able to afford it. As noted previously by this writer, their end game isn’t limiting or regulating the fossil fuel industry for environmental purposes but, rather, eliminating it altogether. That’s a sure fire method of introducing energy poverty to millions of Americans for the first time in their lives.

In my view, forcing the poor to suffer indoor pollution without clean, affordable energy isn’t very Christian. Let’s pray their resolution is defeated when it comes to a vote May 28 at Chevron’s annual stockholder meeting in Midland, Texas.

Bruce Edward Walker

has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.