Investors Ask SEC for Better Disclosure from Covanta, Other Biomass Firms

A group of investors is asking the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to review filings of three companies, including waste-to-energy firm Covanta Holding Corp., about potentially misleading statements about the benefits of biomass energy.

The 15 investment firms, representing $100 billion in assets, sent a letter to the Washington-based SEC indicating that the biomass companies failed to disclose key information about environmental impacts, expected regulations and financial risks, according to a news release.

The other companies besides Morristown, N.J.-based Covanta are Dominion Resources Inc. and Southern Co. All operate wood-burning biomass power plants in the U.S.

The nonprofit Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) reviewed corporate disclosures by the three companies to determine whether their statements about the environmental risks of biomass energy complied with SEC requirements. The findings were summarized in a report that went to the SEC along with the letter from investors.

The investors’ letter to the SEC states:  “[T]he industry appears to have failed to live up to its obligations for accurate and nonmisleading disclosure …  Bioenergy should be required by the SEC to compete for investment dollars without materially exaggerating its value to the environment, or concealing its weaknesses and uncertainties.”

The letter requests that the SEC clarify what companies are allowed to claim in relation to the climate benefits and “carbon neutrality” of biomass energy.    

The PFPI provides science and legal support for citizen groups, environmental organizations and policymakers.

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