Who’s Insuring the Trans Mountain Pipeline?
By Elana Sulakshana
Rainforest Action Network recently uncovered a document that lists the 11 companies that are currently insuring the controversial Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline in Canada. These global insurance giants are providing more than USD$500 million in coverage for the massive risks of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, and they're also lined up to cover the expansion project.
The existing Trans Mountain pipeline is a major environmental and public health hazard with a long history of disastrous spills. Earlier this month, 50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from a pump station located above an aquifer that supplies the Sumas First Nation with drinking water.
The Trans Mountain Expansion Project would multiply these risks tremendously. Though it is officially called an "expansion," this is no minor renovation. The Canadian government, which owns Trans Mountain, is attempting to build a parallel pipeline that would ship more than 890,000 barrels per year of highly-polluting tar sands crude oil to the coast of British Columbia.
For more than a decade, the expansion of Trans Mountain has been delayed in the face of powerful, Indigenous-led resistance on the ground and in the courts. It has not secured the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of Indigenous communities that are directly in the pipeline's route. Right now, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Squamish Nation, and Coldwater Indian Band are actively engaged in legal challenges on the project, and land defenders are asserting their rights and title along the route.
Furthermore, pushing forward this project flies in the face of Canada's commitment to cut emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. To keep global warming under 1.5ºC, we must stop expanding tar sands — and all fossil fuels — and instead invest in a just transition to phase out existing operations.
In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the government and corporations are doubling down on their destructive plans to build new fossil fuel projects. Bulldozers that are laying the initial pipe on Trans Mountain have not quieted, even though this construction poses major risks to Indigenous and rural communities in its path, as well as workers that are housed together in close quarters. In Alberta, viral outbreaks have been linked to man camps at tar sands extraction sites, and yet the province's energy minister proclaimed that now is a great time to construct a pipeline, due to social distancing protocols that limit public protest.
The risks of these pipelines are so great that under federal law, the current pipeline and its expansion are not able to transport any oil without insurance. So if we can stop the flow of insurance money, we can stop the flow of oil.
We're ramping up the pressure on the insurance companies that are providing critical financial support.
Who’s insuring the pipeline? (2019-2020)
Here's the list of insurance companies that are providing coverage from August 2019 through August 2020:
- Zurich (Switzerland)
- Lloyd's (UK)
- Liberty Mutual (US)
- Chubb (US)
- AIG (US)
- WR Berkley (US)
- Starr (US)
- Stewart Specialty Risk Underwriting (Canada)
- Energy Insurance Mutual (US)
- Temple Insurance (Germany), a Canadian member of the Munich Re group
- HDI (Germany), which is owned by Talanx / Hannover Re
These insurance policies are being arranged by the biggest insurance broker in the world: Marsh. Fun fact: Marsh is also currently under fire for facilitating insurance for the Adani Carmicheal coal mine in Australia.
Trans Mountain's insurance policy is up at the end of August, so we are urgently calling on these companies to:
- Publicly commit to not renew their insurance policy for Trans Mountain for 2020-21;
- Moving forward, rule out insurance for all tar sands extraction and transport projects and companies;
- Adopt a policy to ensure that projects and companies they insure have obtained the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of impacted communities.
We've made some progress. In late June, Talanx indicated that it already dropped the pipeline, and Munich Re signaled that it will not renew its policy. These two German insurers recently adopted policies restricting tar sands business.
A global coalition of environmental NGOs, First Nations, and insurance campaigners is demanding that the rest of Trans Mountain's insurers follow suit and stop being complicit in the violation of Indigenous rights, spread of COVID-19, and the desecration of sacred waterways and the global climate.
Elana Sulakshana leads Rainforest Action Network's campaign pressuring the U.S. insurance industry to stop making the climate crisis worse. She has been active in the climate justice movement for the last eight years, most recently organizing for just and equitable climate policy in Washington State, fighting fracking in the U.K., and campaigning for universities to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in communities.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.