Making oil firms more accountable

David Poritz and Christian Seale hope their new venture will force oil and natural gas companies to become more environmentally responsible. The two have developed a certification system they hope will promote better accountability in oil and gas exploration and production. Consider it the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for the oil industry. More

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FOCUS: ENERGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

Making oil firms more accountable

COURTESY EQUITABLE ORIGIN/ FRANCINE STRICKWERDA DRILL INSTRUCTOR: David Poritz, president and CEO of Equitable Origin, on an oil rig in Ecuador. The company is pushing for oil companies to be more environmentally responsible.
Posted 2/20/12

David Poritz and Christian Seale hope their new venture will force oil and natural gas companies to become more environmentally responsible. The two have developed a certification system they hope will promote better accountability in oil and gas exploration and production. Consider it the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for the oil industry.

Their voluntary verification program allows companies to show they are responsible and accountable. The accreditation requires companies to achieve compliance with six principles: corporate governance and accountability; human rights and social impact; fair labor; indigenous rights; climate change and environment; and project life-cycle management.

The pair credit Brown University for instilling in them an entrepreneurial spirit that’s responsible for creating the venture. Poritz is still at Brown, a 23-year-old senior, and Seale, 24, is a recent graduate. They are the co-owners of Equitable Origin, a company based out of New York City and Quito, Ecuador, where their story begins.

A lawsuit between Chevron and 30,000 indigenous people in Ecuador is one of the most notorious legal environmental battles currently being waged. Commenced in 2003, the residents’ lawsuit claimed that from 1972 to 1992, Chevron – then Texaco – discharged 18 billion gallons of water used in oil production into the Amazon River and watershed, causing significant environmental damage and health problems. Last year, the court ruled in favor of the residents, assessing penalties to Chevron totaling $9.5 billion. Chevron has since brought the case before an international panel of arbitrators at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, where it remains unresolved. Chevron has issued public statements disavowing responsibility and promising to continue the battle.

While growing up in Amherst, Mass., Poritz became aware of the suit through acquaintances who knew lawyers on the case. He eventually traveled to Ecuador, and witnessing the situation became active in environmental accountability.

“The oil industry is the largest in the world and is present in every environment in the world, but there is a lack of environmental standards and social responsibility,” Poritz said.

Petroleum and natural gas companies have inherited a perception of being environmentally unfriendly. With the help of stakeholders, Equitable Origin developed a rating system for social and environmental responsibility as established by their principles. Their “EO100 Standard” is designed to inform the public that the company is credible and responsible.

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