Exxon Mobil oil company shareholders OK ‘watershed’ proxy access measure |

Exxon Mobil oil company shareholders OK ‘watershed’ proxy access measure

This Jan. 30, 2012, file photo shows the sign for the Exxon Mobil Torrance Refinery in Torrance, Calif. Exxon Mobil held its annual shareholder meeting Wednesday, May 25, 2016.

DALLAS/SAN RAMON, Calif. — Voters at Exxon Mobil Corp.’s annual meeting Wednesday approved a measure to let minority shareholders nominate outsiders for seats on the board, meaning a climate activist could eventually become a director at the world’s largest publicly traded oil company.

The so-called proxy access measure was the first Exxon shareholder proposal since 2006 to be approved, and it was the only one of 11 proposals related to climate change to pass at meetings held Wednesday by Exxon and fellow U.S. oil giant Chevron Corp.

This year’s meetings were arguably the tensest ever, coming on the heels of the Paris accord to curb fossil fuel emissions and as New York’s attorney general investigates allegations from environmentalists that Exxon misled the public about climate change risks.

Exxon has denied this and complained of being unfairly targeted.

More than 60 percent of Exxon shareholders backed proxy access, which was narrowly defeated last year.

Exxon’s board had opposed the proposal, saying it risked increasing the influence of “special interest groups.”

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who sponsored the proxy access proposal, urged the board to enact it.

“If this company is to properly address fundamental long-term risks like climate change, its board of directors must be diverse, independent, and accountable,” he said in a joint statement signed with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

Stringer later called Exxon shareholders’ approval of the measure a “watershed moment.”

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson said the board would weigh the matter in July. Proxy access proposals were approved last year at more than a dozen oil companies, including Chevron.

The raft of proposals up for vote at Exxon and Chevron more than doubled from last year.

Still, while some gained traction from previous years, nearly all of the measures failed, including ones that would have forced the companies to detail how they will plan for the future after 195 governments agreed in December to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), or to stop investing in new oil and gas deposits by paying out more dividends to shareholders.

Chevron CEO John Watson said he was not opposed to the Paris accord, but is against efforts to put a price on carbon emissions.

“Carbon pricing means raising prices on everything,” he told reporters after the meeting. “What are you prepared to live without?”

While BP Plc, Statoil ASA and other European oil companies have begun releasing myriad data points on how their businesses will respond to climate change, Chevron and Exxon have lagged them, critics say.

Two dozen protesters holding signs that read, “Keep the oil in the ground!” lined the entrance to Chevron’s corporate headquarters in San Ramon.

In Dallas, a group of protesters, estimated at around 70 by one organizer, representing groups like and the Sierra Club, gathered in front of a church across the street from the meeting.

“Exxon’s feeling the heat from all sides,” said Anna Kalinsky, the granddaughter of a former Exxon climate scientist, citing investigations into the company from several state prosecutors.

They held signs reading, “Keep it in the ground!” and “Exxon lied, the planet fried.”

Deborah Nixon, an organizer with the local Dallas Sierra Club, said some members who held Exxon shares would be attending the meeting.

In a legal filing this week to shoot down a subpoena from the U.S. Virgin Islands demanding documents on the company’s deliberations about climate change, Exxon’s lawyers said that since 2006 the company has been saying that “the risk to society and ecosystems from rising greenhouse gas emissions could prove to be significant.”

The lawyers also called inquiries by state prosecutors a “fishing expedition” that was stifling free speech and trying to create public policy instead of enforce laws.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.