Features, Oil & Gas Leaks

Santos shows no ability to join green economy

By Market Forces

At its annual general meeting last week, one of Australia’s biggest gas companies, Santos, proved it has no future in the clean, green economy we need to rapidly transition to.

At the AGM, Santos fought tooth and nail against a shareholder proposal calling on the company to align with the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.

This proposal received a record level of support for a shareholder resolution requesting Paris-alignment, with 43% of investors voting in favour.

Santos’ opposition to the shareholder resolution calling for Paris-alignment demonstrates the company has no ability or willingness to transition to a business model consistent with holding global warming to 1.5°C.

The ‘base case’ scenario that underpins Santos’ asset valuations and strategy is aligned with Australia’s current emissions reduction policy, which is consistent with at least 3°C of global warming.

There is no justification for super funds continuing to invest our retirement savings in this company, whose business model relies on the failure of the Paris Agreement.

The COVID-19 health crisis forced Santos’ AGM to be held online. This meant that shareholders and proxies were required to submit questions online, some of which were answered by the Santos board.

However, some questions posed by representatives of communities impacted by Santos’ dirty gas operations were left unanswered by the company. It appears the company took advantage of the changed circumstances to deny shareholders and affected community members their rights to challenge the board over Santos’ impacts.

Polly Cutmore, a Gomeroi Traditional Owner from Moree in NSW submitted a question asking Santos to drop its dirty Narrabri gas project, which threatens precious country and water. The company did not even acknowledge Polly’s question, let alone respond to it.

Santos did take a question from health professionals over the climate impacts of the company’s gas expansion plans, as well as local health impacts of its fracking operations and plans. However, further questions on this issue were ignored.

The company’s auditors were also questioned over Santos’ highly optimistic oil price assumptions, with shareholders concerned these inflate Santos’ asset valuations, and fail to present a true and fair view of the company’s financial position.

More Santos news: NT move welcomed

Territory pastoralists and Native Title holders have welcomed Santos’ announcement that it will abandon its exploration and fracking program for the McArthur Basin “beyond 2020”.

Speaking at the company’s online annual general meeting today, chair Keith Spence cited a combination of delayed drilling activities in 2019 and the Covid-19 situation for the decision.

The announcement comes after fellow fracking companies Origin Energy and Empire Energy recently announced they would indefinitely halt drilling operations in the NT.

Call to halt hearings

Lock the Gate Alliance has renewed its calls for any public hearing associated with Santos’ Narrabri coal seam gas project to be put on hold, following the latest public health restrictions put in place to respond to the coronavirus crisis.

Earlier this month, NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes directed the Independent Planning Commission to proceed with public hearings, despite the health crisis and associated restrictions on public gatherings and unnecessary travel.

Since then, at least 1553 people have written to Mr Stokes, urgently calling on him to delay the public hearings until the health crisis has passed.

The Alliance believes the release of the Department of Planning’s “assessment report” on the project is imminent which would trigger the need for public hearings to be held.

Among the groups to have sent the Minister a letter is the North West Alliance, a network of community groups in North West NSW. Mullaley farmer Margaret Fleck said it was negligent and irresponsible for Mr Stokes to direct the IPC to proceed with the hearing.

“Almost 23,000 people made submissions on this project. The public is simply not going to have a fair and just hearing of objections to this gasfield if the hearing takes place during this health crisis,” she said.

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