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Green Groups Urge Insurers to Drop Coverage of Trans Mountain Pipeline

"Now is the time to decisively say no to this destructive project."

Activists with Insure Our Future gathered outside Liberty Mutual's Boston and Seattle offices in December 2019 to demand the insure company "take bold action in the face of the climate emergency and stop insuring fossil fuels."

Activists with Insure Our Future gathered outside Liberty Mutual's Boston and Seattle offices in December 2019 to demand the insurer "take bold action in the face of the climate emergency and stop insuring fossil fuels." (Photo: Insure Our Future/Twitter)

Over 140 advocacy groups released an open letter Thursday urging insurers of Trans Mountain to drop their coverage of the tar sands "megaproject" because it "puts Indigenous communities, drinking water, and our shared climate at grave risk."

"With the policy expiring at the end of August, now is the time to decisively say no to this destructive project," says the letter (pdf).

The call is addressed to AIG, Chubb, Energy Insurance Limited, Liberty Mutual, Lloyd's, Munich Re, Starr, Stewart Specialty Risk Underwriting, and W.R. Berkley. Spared from the list is Swiss insurance giant Zurich, which announced in a victory for campaigners two weeks ago that it would no longer cover the project

The demand from the groups including Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace Canada, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs is part of a tactic by climate activists to increase pressure on insurers to stop underwriting the fossil fuel project, which would triple the capacity of the Canadian government-owned existing pipeline and has faced multiple legal challenges and sustained resistance from First Nations communities.

The existing pipeline, groups wrote, "is a major public health and environmental hazard with a long history of spills and leaks," and the proposed expansion project "would multiply these risks tremendously."

Risks along supply chain abound, from releasing toxic pollutants and extracting vast amounts of fresh water resources to forest clearing to pipeline workers' threats to Indigenous women.

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Problems continue once the oil reaches refiners, as they "are disproportionately located in communities of color, exposing Black and Latinx Americans to toxic chemicals, dangerous air quality, and explosive facilities at alarming rates," the letter says. And with "increased tar sands production, refineries are expanding and intensifying these threats to health and safety."

If the companies choose to continue underwriting the project, it will be a reflection "that your company is choosing corporate greed over people" says the letter, warning that doing so "will pose significant reputational risks to your business."

The groups further called on the insurers to not only discontinue coverage of Trans Mountain but "exit the tar sands sector entirely."

In a Thursday tweet promoting news converge of the letter, the Insure Our Future campaign, which pressures insurers to stop covering fossil fuel projects, singled out one of the companies named in the letter: Lloyd's of London.

Lloyd's "is the pipeline's biggest remaining insurer," the group wrote. "Why is it still ignoring climate science?"

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