WASHINGTON - March 3 - An international coalition of BP investors announced today that they have filed a Special Resolution with the company to be considered by shareholders at the Annual General Meeting in London on April 15. The coalition, led by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, is calling on the company to adopt a public policy against drilling in protected and sensitive areas.
"BP contends that it should be allowed to drill in sensitive areas because it has the ability to operate in a manner that will not harm these unique places," said U.S. PIRG Education Fund Arctic Wilderness Associate Justin Tatham. "We disagree with that argument. The best way preserve biodiversity and important protected areas is not by making a 'best practices' gamble but to not operate there at all."
Of primary concern is the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The coastal plain is currently off limits to drilling, but BP has not publicly stated whether they would drill in the area if the U.S. Congress ever authorizes drilling there.
"BP's record on the North Slope is one more reason why the company and the shareholders must examine this issue," said Congressman Ed Markey, who has sponsored legislation in Congress that would permanently protect the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge. "A company's willingness to exercise care in environmentally-sensitive areas will always be hard to credit if the same company does not embrace the protection of our most irreplaceable wilderness and wildlife treasures."
The Special Resolution, drafted by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund in December 2003, has been co-filed by a broad coalition of environmental, financial, and religious groups, along with over 90 individual investors. This year's lead co-filers include the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the Sierra Club, Clean Yield Asset Management, and some members of Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility, including the Congregation of La Retraite.
The 2004 Resolution calls on BP to examine the potential risks, both economic and to brand reputation, involved in operating in sensitive and protected areas around the globe. The aim of the Resolution is to encourage the company to adopt specific policy standards against operating in such areas. Two years ago, U.S. PIRG Education Fund filed a similar resolution that was supported by 11 percent of BP shareholders.
"We think it is important for BP to measure the risk to its carefully cultivated brand image from drilling in sensitive and protected areas," said Tatham. "The stakes are very high for BP, a company that has declared its intention to go 'beyond petroleum' and respect the environment and human rights."
The U.S. PIRG Education Fund also released a white paper that makes the case for supporting the Special Resolution for distribution to the financial and investor communities in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States. The white paper will be circulated to major BP investors along with a letter encouraging them to vote in favor of the resolution.
Among the main arguments presented in the white paper, the most significant revolves around BP's position and activities with regard to protected areas and biodiversity. The paper also notes that one of BP's largest competitors, Royal Dutch/Shell, has moved forward on the issue, and adopted a policy against operating in World Heritage Sites.
Also included in the white paper is documentation of ongoing operational problems, accidents, and fines related to BP's operations on Alaska's North Slope since the last resolution was filed in 2002. The most recent downturn in BP's Alaska record came in early January 2004, when Alaska's top environmental regulator called for increased federal oversight of the company's operations at Prudhoe Bay.
"The best way for BP to go 'beyond petroleum' is to declare that they will not drill for oil and gas in protected areas like the Arctic Refuge," said Melinda Pierce of the Sierra Club. "Such a statement would represent a sincere commitment to protecting our environment and would lend credence to BP's 'green friendly' brand image."
This year's Special Resolution has been filed as the Bush administration continues to push for drilling in the Arctic Refuge, and has once again included a provision in its annual budget proposal that would open the Refuge. In the House, drilling opponents Congressman Ed Markey and Congresswoman Nancy Johnson recently sent two letters to the Budget Committee urging the drilling provisions to be left out. The letters were co-signed by 123 Democrats and 17 Republican members of Congress, respectively.
To see a copy of the white paper BP Special Resolution 2004, Protected Areas, or a copy of the report "Mixed Messages," which details BP's record on Alaska's North Slope, please visit www.SaveTheArctic.com/reports.