Insurance firms urged to stop coverage of Trans Mountain pipeline

Activists point to institutions’ support of Paris climate change agreement and Indigenous rights

A coalition of environmental and Indigenous groups is calling on insurance companies to drop or refuse to provide coverage of the Trans Mountain pipeline, although they concede its lead liability insurer is planning to continue coverage.

The coalition of 32 groups says in a news release on Thursday that if it can convince insurers to bow out of covering the pipeline and its recently approved expansion project beyond an Aug. 31 renewal date, Ottawa will be forced to self-insure, which will put public dollars at risk.

In a copy of a letter sent to 27 insurers, the activists ask them to avoid the “reputational and financial risk” of supporting the pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., in view of the institutions’ commitments to support the Paris climate change agreement and Indigenous rights.

Only 12 of the companies responded to the letter, the coalition says, with most refusing to discuss their dealings with specific clients.

The coalition says that Switzerland-based Zurich Insurance Group, however, has indicated it plans to continue to insure the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, a position the group says betrays its climate change and Indigenous rights commitments.

READ MORE: Is Trans Mountain a pipeline to prosperity for Indigenous communities?

It provided a copy of a letter it says is from the company’s CEO, noting that while the company’s policy is to restrict insuring oilsands assets, its position is to talk to the Trans Mountain owner, the federal government, to sort out its climate change goals and clarify whether the pipeline is actually “dedicated” to oilsands.

“It’s clear Zurich needs to commit to not insure the pipeline expansion,” said Tzeporah Berman, international program director at Stand.earth, in the release.

“We are encouraged by Zurich’s recent policy, and we are calling on other insurance companies to stop insuring the expansion of the fossil fuel industry.”

The Canadian Press

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