Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"Despite today's ruling in favor of secrecy, we will only increase our demands on insurance companies to publicly state that they will cut ties with Trans Mountain and all tar sands projects," said Elana Sulakshana, energy finance Campaigner with Rainforest Action Network. (Photo: Coast Protectors/Twitter)

Outrage as Canadian Regulator Lets Government-Owned Pipeline Keep Insurers Secret

"A project which can only be insured secretly has lost its social license to operate," said one Trans Mountain opponent.

Jake Johnson

A Canadian regulatory agency on Thursday granted a request by the operator of the government-owned Trans Mountain pipeline to keep its insurers hidden from public view, a decision environmentalists said is a "dangerous precedent" and yet another reason to shut the dirty energy project down immediately.

"A project which can only be insured secretly has lost its social license to operate," Sven Biggs, Canadian Oil and Gas Program director at Stand.earth, said in a statement. "The fact that Trans Mountain is struggling to obtain adequate insurance makes clear that this pipeline system is too risky, and the Canadian government must shut it down and cancel the expansion project."

"These insurers can't hide. Any company that refuses to rule out insuring tar sands extraction and pipeline projects is complicit in Indigenous rights violations."
—Kanahus Manuel, Tiny House Warriors

The Canada Energy Regulator (CER) said in a ruling Thursday that it accepts Trans Mountain Corporation's argument that unveiling the names of companies insuring the pipeline project would "prejudice its competitive position" and harm "its ability to obtain adequate insurance at a reasonable price."

"Trans Mountain has satisfied the requirements for confidentiality," CER said in its decision (pdf), which applies only to the existing pipeline and not the ongoing expansion.

Charlene Aleck, spokesperson for Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative, which opposes the pipeline, said in a statement that "by making the certificate of insurance confidential and removing a layer of transparency, the CER has reduced the options for Tsleil Waututh Nation to assert our inherent and constitutionally protected Aboriginal rights and fulfill our sacred obligation to protect and steward our territory."

"After all these years of regulatory process, including sharing our own independent assessment, grounded in our Indigenous own laws, the CER continues to undermine our sovereignty," Aleck added. "This is not reconciliation."

In the wake of Thursday's decision, a coalition of Indigenous communities and climate organizations is planning to intensify its pressure campaign targeting insurance companies that have not ruled out backing the Trans Mountain pipeline, including AIG, Liberty Mutual, and Energy Insurance Limited.

Under pressure from environmentalists, Zurich Insurance Group AG dropped its coverage of the Trans Mountain pipeline last year.

"These insurers can't hide. Any company that refuses to rule out insuring tar sands extraction and pipeline projects is complicit in Indigenous rights violations," said Kanahus Manuel, a Secwepemc and Ktunaxa land defender with the Tiny House Warriors. "By not dropping Trans Mountain, insurers are also making a misguided business decision. Our presence and our assertions of Indigenous jurisdiction and territorial authority to our lands represent major risks to the construction and financial liability of the expansion project."

In 2018, the government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline—which carries around 300,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Alberta to the Vancouver area—from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion (CAD) in an effort to rescue the project from financial struggles and complete a major expansion.

Elana Sulakshana, energy finance Campaigner with Rainforest Action Network, said Thursday that "hiding the details of Trans Mountain's insurance certificate will do nothing to address the very real problems this pipeline faces: lack of consent from Indigenous communities, decaying infrastructure, mounting costs, and a massive carbon footprint."

A paper published last month by a team of researchers at Simon Fraser University's School of Resource and Environmental Management estimates that Canada is set to lose an estimated $11.9 billion from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project due to soaring construction costs and national climate policies aimed at reducing demand for oil.

"Despite today's ruling in favor of secrecy," said Sulakshana, "we will only increase our demands on insurance companies to publicly state that they will cut ties with Trans Mountain and all tar sands projects."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Vaccine Equity Coalition Warns 'Pathetic Trickles of Charity' Won't End Pandemic

"Rich countries are selfishly looking out for themselves but short-changing all of us. We need bold solutions now, not more empty gestures."

Jake Johnson ·


'Do Better,' Say Advocates as Biden Seeks to Double Refugee Admissions

"When thousands of Afghans have been forced to flee their home to find safety, and Haitians are seeking safety on the southern border, the very least the United States can do is set a resettlement goal that meets the moment."

Brett Wilkins ·


Border Patrol Accused of 'Unfathomable Cruelty' for Cracking Whips on Haitians

"It doesn't matter if a Democrat or Republican is president, our immigration system is designed for cruelty towards and dehumanization of immigrants," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Brett Wilkins ·


As Gov. Tim Walz Proclaims 'Minnesota Climate Week,' Ilhan Omar Says 'Stop Line 3'

"The state of Minnesota simply cannot meet our carbon reduction targets if this pipeline goes through," said the Democratic congresswoman. "Our future is on the line."

Kenny Stancil ·


Supreme Court Announces Date for Case Directly Challenging Roe v. Wade

"The fate of Roe v. Wade and legal abortion is on the line."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo