A church with a minuscule stake in Range Resources has won shareholder approval of a resolution to force Pennsylvania's largest natural gas driller to produce a report on its effort to scale back methane emissions.
The Unitarian Universalist Association, which owns Range stock valued at about $2,000, sought to force the energy giant to produce a report that "reviews the company's policies, actions and plans related to methane emissions management."
Range's board opposed the measure, saying the Fort Worth, Texas-based company already discloses that information to stockholders as well as to federal and state environmental regulators. A board statement that urged shareholders to reject the proposal archly noted that it was "submitted on behalf of a stockholder who holds 130 shares."
Shareholders at the company's annual meeting on Wednesday approved the activist church's resolution by the slimmest of margins, giving it just over 50 percent of the vote. A similar measure offered by the church in 2014 was withdrawn after getting just 8 percent.
Environmentalists hailed shareholders' change of heart.
"This vote provides further proof that the public is increasingly concerned about the impact of oil and gas pollution," said Andrew Williams, director of legislative and regulatory affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund.
The Boston-based Unitarian Universalist Association wants Range and other drillers to limit emissions from methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. It said Range had not provided "adequate disclosure" of its mitigation strategy. The resolution approved by shareholders demands that Range produce a report by September on its efforts to stop methane leaks.
Range said it's not a significant emitter of methane and already takes steps to limit pollution.
The company said in a statement on Thursday that it "appreciates the perspective brought forward by the proposal creators, and looks forward to working together with them to further articulate the company's approach to emissions management."
Range pioneered drilling and fracking in the Marcellus Shale, an underground rock formation that holds the nation's largest reservoir of natural gas. It has nearly 1,300 active shale wells in Pennsylvania, the nation's No. 2 gas-producing state. Range earned $333 million on $2.6 billion in revenue last year.