Today, 140 organizations representing 24 million people sent a letter to the current insurers of Trans Mountain, urging them to stop insuring the tar sands pipeline due to its contribution to climate change, Indigenous rights violations, and environmental justice concerns.
Indigenous leaders and Nations, climate justice groups, community organizations, and a physicians’ association call on these companies, which include Liberty Mutual, Chubb and AIG, to drop their coverage of Trans Mountain and stop insuring all tar sands expansion.
“Trans Mountain puts Indigenous communities, drinking water, and our shared climate at grave risk. We urge you to rule out insuring Trans Mountain and exit the tar sands sector entirely. We also call on you to adopt, as part of your insurance policies, a requirement to obtain and document the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of impacted communities, especially Indigenous communities,” reads the letter.
Insurance coverage of more than USD $500 million for the Trans Mountain pipeline expires on August 31, 2020. The insurers on track to renew their coverage include AIG, Chubb, Energy Insurance Limited, Liberty Mutual, Lloyd’s, Starr, Stewart Specialty Risk Underwriting, and W.R. Berkley. They all received copies of the letter.
“The companies insuring the Trans Mountain pipeline are accelerating climate change and violating Indigenous Rights,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC). “Now is not the time to finance a huge expansion of some of the world’s dirtiest oil. The pipeline does not have the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of all Indigenous communities across whose lands this pipeline passes.”
Trans Mountain recently revealed that its lead insurer, Zurich, would not be renewing its policy. Earlier in the summer, German insurers Talanx also stated that it would drop the project following a recently-adopted policy on oil sands. Fellow German insurer Munich Re signaled the same.
“The world is changing, the financial sector is beginning to act on climate change and projects that drive it. Recently we have seen Deutsche Bank announce they will no longer invest in the oil sands and Zurich Insurance cut its ties to Trans Mountain. Now it is time for companies like Liberty Mutual and Chubb to catch up to their peers by adopting strong climate policies that rule out the dirtiest forms of fossil fuels and the projects that support them, starting with this pipeline” said Sven Biggs, Canadian Oil and Gas Program Director for Stand.earth.
These divestment decisions follow pressure from a global coalition that has been targeting insurers to cut ties with Trans Mountain and the entire tar sands sector. The campaign is now turning to the pipeline’s remaining insurers.
“Over 100,000 SumOfUs members called on insurance companies like Zurich, Talanx, and Munich Re – and are pleased that the companies have stopped underwriting destructive projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline. In addition, thousands of our members have written to Swiss based-Chubb CEO and executives in German, French and English to join its competitors and not renew its insurance on Trans Mountain. Chubb was an industry leader as one of the first insurance companies to stop working with coal, and we are hopeful that it will do the right thing with dirty tar sands pipelines as well,” said Angus Wong, Canadian Team Leader at SumOfUs.org.
The Trans Mountain pipeline is a major environmental and public health hazard with a long history of disastrous spills. The expansion project (TMX) would triple its output of tar sands oil to 870,000 barrels per day, increasing the number of oil tankers that traverse the BC and Washington coasts and risks of major spills of diluted bitumen.
“The transport of crude oil through waterways and communities in Washington poses unacceptable health risks to the public. Prone to spills, fires, and explosions, crude oil transportation and storage carries a high potential to cause injuries and deaths in population centers. Exposure during spill and cleanup also increases the risk of neurotoxicity, cancer, lung disease, loss of cognitive function, and endocrine disruption in humans. Crude oil accounts for the majority of air-toxic cancer risks in the Puget Sound area and oil-contaminated water sources are strongly associated with cancer, digestive, and reproductive health risks. For the health of our communities, we cannot afford to bring more dangerous and dirty crude oil into our state,” said Mary Margaret Thomas, RN, MSN, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Kanahus Manuel, Secwepemc, Ktunaxa, Tiny House Warriors, said:
“It’s the blood and bones of our ancestors that make up the soil that we’re standing on. It’s part of who we are and our identity. Oil and gas pipelines are not welcome on Unceded Indigenous Territories.”
Chris Wilke, Waterkeeper Alliance, said:
“Ocean tankers carrying tar sands crude to foreign markets from the Trans Mountain Pipeline present a dangerous and unacceptable risk of a catastrophic spill that could decimate struggling fisheries and orca populations in the Salish Sea. There is still no effective cleanup technology for sinking oil like tar sands crude, and adding hundreds of ocean tankers per year only increases the chance of a disaster. We don’t need more tar sands oil to meet current North American demand. We need to be expanding clean energy sources for a sustainable future, not investing in dirty energy of the past,”
Cherry Tsoi, Campaigner at Leadnow, said:
“In a climate crisis, there’s no room left for destructive tar sands projects of the past. As key players in the energy economy, insurance companies like Zurich, Talanx and Munich Re have seen the writing on the wall for climate-killing pipelines and are dropping Trans Mountain — and they’re further committing to drop all tar sands projects. We urge the remaining insurers of Trans Mountain to follow their lead and do the same.”
Elana Sulakshana, Energy Finance Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, said:
“Zurich, Talanx, and Munich Re have recognized the toxic risks of this pipeline and the entire tar sands sector. We’re watching Liberty Mutual, Chubb, and the remaining insurers of the pipeline closely to see if they will continue to trample on Indigenous rights, fuel climate chaos, and pollute communities and ecosystems.”
*Image by Shutterstock