Energy, Environment

Northeast Natural Energy earns world’s first A grade for ESG performance from Equitable Origin

MORGANTOWN — Local natural gas producer Northeast Natural Energy continues to lead the industry in terms of corporate culture, announcing on Thursday that it has just become the first producer globally to receive an A grade from Equitable Origin for the ESG performance of its West Virginia assets.

The grade, reflecting Equitable Origin’s EO100 Standard for Responsible Energy Development, resulted from a voluntary re-verification audit conducted by third-party assessor Responsible Energy Solutions.

Mike John

This continues a three-year string of recognition, as NNE became the first producer in the United States to certify an asset to EO’s standard for high-ESG performance at the site level in 2021, followed by re-verification in 2022.

EO did not assign grades in 2021, NNE president and CEO Mike John told The Dominion Post. In 2022, EO assigned grades but only shared them privately. NNE got a B. This year, EO published its grades and NNE is the first company to receive an A.

“The process is not that old,” John said. “We’re kind of out front of it a little bit. But there can only be one first. We’ll take credit for it.”

ESG standards — environmental, social and governance — cover a range of issues from emissions to corporate governance. Equitable Origin is a nonprofit that certifies energy production based on corporate governance and ethics; social impacts, human rights, and community engagement; occupational health and safety and fair labor standards; and environmental performance.

The process took a couple months, John said, and included site visits and interviews with employees and external stakeholders.

“It’s a cultural thing for us,” he said. “We’re from here. This is where we live, this is where we work.” NNE has offices in Charleston and Morgantown,

“So, it’s important for us to do things the right way,” he said. “I think it’s important to have outside evaluations. It helps you measure yourself to invite other people to look at what you do and how you do it and give you feedback.

“The whole idea of continuous improvement is important to us, to our team,” he said. “This process makes us a better operator. It makes us better at what we do. It makes us better as a part of the community.”

In an NNE release announcing the grade, Jason Switzer, CEO of Equitable Origin, said, “Today, we congratulate NNE on becoming the first producer in the world to receive an A grade for a producing asset under our certification process. We are pleased to recognize the hard work and leadership they have demonstrated by achieving higher levels of performance over time through participation in our program.”

Annually, the release explained, the assessors undertake re-verification audits to assess conformance to the standard and progress by NNE on a Continual Improvement Plan that is a requirement for certification. These findings are subject to a rigorous external peer review.

Roy Hartstein, founder and president of Responsible Energy Solutions, said, “Having completed our third-annual assessment for Northeast Natural Energy, our team has seen continuous improvement that reflects a culture of excellence at NNE. Through the review of thousands of pages of documents and dozens of interviews with NNE staff, contractors, and external stakeholders, we have found that culture reflected in action and results from the field through the senior leadership.”

NNE focuses on the development of dry, pipeline-quality natural gas in the Appalachian Basin. The company operates 40,000 contiguous acres in north-central West Virginia, developing and producing reserves from the Marcellus Shale.

Equitable Origin said it is a nonprofit founded with a vision to create a market-based mechanism to recognize and reward responsible energy producers and to empower energy purchasers through independent, site-level certification.

Responsible Energy Solutions said it is the leading U.S. assessor for both the Equitable Origin and MiQ methane standard based on three metrics: methane intensity, company practices and methane detection technology deployment standards.


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