Fifteen insurers have ruled out Trans Mountain already; coalition pledges to continue pressuring the remaining companies
Today, Indigenous, environmental, and climate groups sent an open letter to twenty insurance companies that have failed to rule out insuring the Trans Mountain pipeline network, following the August 31 expiration date of one of Trans Mountain’s key insurance policies. The letter was addressed to firms that have been linked to the pipeline in recent years, including AIG, Chubb, Liberty Mutual, and insurers operating on the Lloyd’s of London marketplace.
The 24 organizations, including Indigenous Climate Action, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, Stand.earth, and others, called on these global companies to cut ties with Trans Mountain, stop insuring all tar sands expansion, and phase out support for the sector. They also emphasized the need for insurers to adopt policies to ensure that the projects they support have obtained the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of impacted Indigenous communities.
“The insurance companies backing the Trans Mountain pipeline are intensifying the devastating impacts of the climate crisis and violating Indigenous Rights,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC). “The Trans Mountain expansion and tanker project would enable a huge expansion of the world’s dirtiest oil despite resistance from Indigenous Peoples along its route. The pipeline does not have the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of all Indigenous communities across whose lands this pipeline passes, and it will continue to face powerful resistance.”
The insurers targeted today have repeatedly failed to respond to requests to comment on their role in supporting Trans Mountain.
“It’s more important now than ever that insurers pay attention to what’s happening in the world – the natural disasters and wildfires – and their added place in it, supporting projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker expansion is accelerating the climate crisis we are in and the fatal effects to the natural existence of our world. Indigenous leaders are speaking out, and we need to make sure the insurance companies are listening,” said Charlene Aleck, spokesperson for Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative.
In advance of the August 31 deadline, a global coalition has been pressuring insurers to cut ties with the destructive project. In June, activists took to the streets in dozens of actions at insurance offices across four continents as part of the “Stop Insuring Trans Mountain” week of action, and hundreds of thousands of people have signed petitions, sent emails, and made phone calls to insurance executives.
“Today’s letter puts global insurance companies on notice that they have a responsibility to help the world meet its climate goals for reduction in carbon emissions by coming clean on their role in tar sands,” said Chris Wilke, Global Advocacy Manager at Waterkeeper Alliance. “The science is clear, there is no pathway to avoiding the most catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis – that includes expansion of fossil fuel sources, especially the dirtiest forms, like tar sands bitumen.”
To date, 15 insurance companies have ruled out insuring the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, either through specific public statements or broad tar sands exclusion policies. Following pressure from the campaign, Argo, Lancashire, SCOR, and Cincinnati Global issued public statements in recent months.
The letter is being sent to insurance companies that have previously been linked to the pipeline project and have not yet ruled out involvement: AIG, Chubb, Energy Insurance Limited, Liberty Mutual, Lloyd’s of London, Markel, Starr, Stewart Specialty Risk Underwriting, and W.R. Berkley. It is also being sent to Lloyd’s syndicates that are likely involved in the project through the Lloyd’s marketplace: Apollo, Arch, Ark, Beazley, Brit, Canopius, CNA Hardy, Hiscox, Inigo, MS Amlin, and Navigators.
“It is morally and scientifically indefensible for insurance companies to enable the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project,” said R. Brent Lyles, Executive Director at Friends of the San Juans. “This expansion will increase tanker traffic, shipping an additional 590,000 barrels per day of highly toxic tar sands oil through the Salish Sea, significantly increasing accident and oil spill risk and imperiling our environment, our lifeways, and our economy. The noise and disruption from the oil tankers impact the critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales’ ability to find scarce food, and the increased oil tanker traffic will also increase the risk of fatal ship strikes.”
Construction of the massive tar sands pipeline is plowing ahead in the face of Indigenous-led resistance, and the surveillance of land defenders is increasing. In July, Trans Mountain’s security team invaded the Secwépemc territory of the Tiny House Warriors and installed massive surveillance towers with robotic cameras, floodlights, and fencing, after taking down the security barriers set up by Tiny House Warriors, as detailed in a recent letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from dozens of human rights lawyers, organizations, authors, and First Nation representatives.
“The pipeline puts Secwepemcul’ecw at risk. The Secwepemc and their allies are bearing the costs of fighting to stop a pipeline that harms everyone. Indigenous jurisdiction is the biggest risk to the Crown and to insurance companies. But the Secwepemc aren’t going anywhere. The risk will never go away for as long as Canada tries to deny Indigenous jurisdiction,” said Kanahus Manuel, a Secwepemc and Ktunaxa land defender with the Tiny House Warriors.
As a result of years of community resistance and ongoing assertions of Indigenous sovereignty along the route, the construction costs of the Trans Mountain expansion line continue to balloon. The current estimated cost of the project – $12.6 billion CAD – represents an increase of 133 percent as compared to the initial proposal in 2014.
“As we know from the IPCC and IEA reports that came out this year, fossil fuels are a dead-end, only leading our planet toward further climate chaos and human and Indigenous rights violations. We must listen to frontline Indigenous leaders who are calling for insurance companies to end insuring all tar sands infrastructure, including the Trans Mountain pipeline,” said Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International. “Insurers must be held accountable for their role in the destruction of the climate, the violation of human and Indigenous rights, deadly pollution, especially in communities of color, and increased rates of violence toward Indigenous women associated with fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure. As we witness the heartbreaking news of ever worsening climate disasters like Hurricane Ida, the famine in Madagascar, and forest fires around the world, business as usual must not and cannot continue, we need bold action now for climate justice.”
In February 2021, the Canadian-owned Trans Mountain corporation petitioned the Canada Energy Regulator to keep the names of its insurance backers secret, stating that it had “observed increasing reluctance from insurance companies to offer insurance coverage for the Pipeline and to do so at a reasonable price.” The Canada Energy Regulator approved the request on April 29, 2021, and Trans Mountain’s most recent insurance certificate was publicly filed with the insurance company names redacted, despite widespread calls for transparency and accountability.
“Our planet absolutely cannot afford the expansion of fossil fuel projects, and we need a rapid phase-out of existing projects. Insurers like AIG that continue to support tar sands projects like Trans Mountain are complicit in enabling the climate crisis and violating Indigenous rights,” said Elise Peterson-Trujillo, Climate Campaign Coordinator at Public Citizen.