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Investors urge drillers, miners not to take advantage of Trump environmental rollbacks

WASHINGTON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - A group of U.S. institutional investors urged energy, timber and mining companies on Wednesday not to take advantage of Trump administration rollbacks of environmental regulations, such as moving operations into public lands that are being opened up.

The investors representing nearly $113 billion in assets sent a letter to 58 companies saying that firms seeking to make use of the rule changes put themselves and their investors at “significant risk of public backlash and stranded assets, should these actions be legally challenged or protections be restored by the courts or by future administrations.”

The companies include Chevron Corp, Exxon Mobil Corp and Weyerhaeuser Co.

Lauren Compere, director of shareowner engagement at Boston Common Asset Management, one of the 40 investment groups that sent the letter, said that if the companies did not take heed, the investors could escalate pressure by filing shareholder resolutions.

President Donald Trump has rolled back some protections on public lands including in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments that may eventually allow companies to stake claims for drilling and mining in the areas.

The push by the investors comes amid increasing attention by investors to climate and environmental issues.

Larry Fink, chief executive at BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager, warned company boards this month to step up efforts to tackle climate change or face increased wrath from investors concerned about how unsustainable business practices might curb their future wealth.

Companies “should know that trying to take advantage of President Trump’s environmental rollbacks is bound to be an unpopular, expensive mistake,” Democratic U.S. Representative Raúl Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said about Wednesday’s letter from investors.

Grijalva introduced a bill last year requiring companies to disclose emissions from fossil-fuel development on public lands, disclosures that would be published by the Interior Department.

Other investors that signed the letter include Trillium Asset Management and the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.

Chevron spokeswoman Veronica Flores-Paniagua said the company continued to review opportunities in Alaska’s ANWR “in the context of our global exploration portfolio,” and that it valued feedback from investors and other stakeholders.

Exxon and Weyerhaeuser did not immediately respond to requests for comment. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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