Liberty Mutual Faces Pressure to Exit Tar Sands from Policyholders, Climate and Indigenous Rights Groups
Originally posted by Rainforest Action Network, see original press release here.
Broad coalition pledges to ramp up the campaign on Liberty Mutual following inaction at the company’s annual policyholder meeting
April 8, 2020 – Today, at its annual policyholder meeting, Liberty Mutual refused to answer questions about its role propping up the fossil fuel industry and fueling climate change that were submitted by dozens of policyholders in recent weeks. Unlike previous years, policyholders were prohibited from asking questions or voting during the meeting, which lasted all of six minutes on a webcast.
“Liberty Mutual is stifling policyholder voices and undermining democratic governance of the company,” said Paola Massoli, Liberty Mutual policyholder from Somerville, Massachusetts. “I demand a response to my questions: when will Liberty Mutual stop insuring destructive tar sands pipelines and Indigenous rights abuses, and instead accelerate a just transition to a sustainable economy? The fact that Liberty is insuring the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline epitomizes the company’s climate and human rights crimes and short-sighted business model.”
Last week, TC Energy announced that it would proceed with the Keystone XL pipeline despite the COVID-19 related health risks to workers and communities in the pipeline’s path. Construction is beginning on the project in Montana this week, and Liberty Mutual has already provided a $15.6 million bond to cover construction risks.
“More than 50,000 people are calling on the company to drop its coverage for the Keystone XL and Trans Mountain pipelines and rule out the dangerous tar sands sector entirely, particularly as fossil fuel corporations plow ahead with pipeline construction in the midst of a pandemic. Insurers like Liberty Mutual must protect society against climate risk, not exacerbate it,” said Randi Mail, insurance organizer at Rainforest Action Network.
Keystone XL construction is moving forward in the face of powerful resistance from Indigenous communities who will be directly impacted by the pipeline’s route.
“The Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma is a People already suffering from environmental genocide and will not accept one more attack by the extractive industry. With our children’s future at stake, we have determined that we must not allow Keystone XL man camps and the accompanying COVID-19, drugs, and sex trafficking to enter our traditional territory in Nebraska or where we presently live in Oklahoma. We have always considered Liberty Mutual to be a company of conscience who cares about the well being of all and has an eye to the future. Please be clear, this is not only a venture bound to fail, it is also a clear choice to have a legacy of honor or one of disaster capitalism. Remember, this is about your descendents’ lives, too,” said Casey Camp-Horinek, Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, Environmental Ambassador, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) Board Member.
On the heels of a groundswell of grassroots pressure, Liberty Mutual adopted a coal policy in December 2019, but the company continues to support new coal projects, insure oil and gas with no restrictions, and invest billions in fossil fuels. In recent months, Liberty Mutual’s major role in propping up the tar sands sector has been exposed.
“Insurance companies like Liberty Mutual are backing dirty energy corporations that are responsible for desecrating and contaminating our ecosystems and our food sources, ultimately destroying our inherent and Treaty rights as Indigenous peoples. I have witnessed the impacts that tar sands extraction projects have had on my own home community,” said Nigel Henri Robinson, a member of the Cold Lake First Nations in Alberta and Youth Engagement Lead with Indigenous Climate Action. “Right now, Alberta is driven by an oil economy so much that they gave billions to TC Energy for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in the middle of a global pandemic. Liberty Mutual shouldn’t be supporting dirty governments and dirty energy projects.”
As a top global insurer of coal, oil, and gas, insurance giant Liberty Mutual is a key target of the Stop the Money Pipeline campaign, which is made up of more than 90 climate, environmental, and Indigenous rights organizations.
In the lead-up to today’s meeting, concerned policyholders also voted against the Board of Directors to hold it accountable for its lack of proper oversight of climate risk and impact, and its entanglement with the fossil fuel industry. Liberty Board Member Jay Hooley recently joined the board of ExxonMobil, and numerous others have close ties to Eversource Energy, including CEO and Board Chairman, David Long.
“Liberty Mutual has knowingly become a threat to life as we know it. Because of what I’ve learned about this company, I am dropping a decades-long relationship,” said Liberty Mutual policyholder Sarah van Gelder from Bremerton, Washington. “I’m calling on fellow policyholders to join me and concerned citizens everywhere in insisting that the company exits the tar sands sector, stops insuring fossil fuel expansion, and adopt policies that support Indigenous rights and a livable future for generations to come.”
“By insuring the tar sands sector, Liberty Mutual is complicit in Indigenous rights abuses. Trans Mountain and other proposed tar sands pipelines have not secured the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of all impacted First Nations, who are leading powerful resistance in the courts and on the ground. Liberty Mutual should take note, as the companies that continue to cover the risks of tar sands are increasingly being exposed,” said Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and Chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band.
“Our tribal nations cannot access the insurance money should a catastrophic event happen because of Keystone XL. Yet, this pipeline crosses our treaty lands and waters, which skirt our reservation boundaries. This zombie pipeline puts my people at risk by posing an increased threat to women and increasing crime, and further stretching the health resources in rural South Dakota during this worldwide pandemic. Liberty Mutual needs to think twice about backing a company that is willing to put so much risk to our tribes and state,” said Joye Braun, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and frontline organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network.
“As a lead insurer of the Keystone XL and Trans Mountain tar sands pipelines, Liberty Mutual must be aware that it is complicit in the further destruction of the climate, the violation of Indigenous Rights, further harms to public health during a pandemic, and increased rates of violence toward Indigenous women living near ‘man camps’. What is needed now from insurers like Liberty Mutual is a show of leadership and dedication to healthy communities, ecological sustainability, and human and Indigenous rights, as we face the unprecedented challenges of a world on the precipice of climate chaos—there is no time to lose, the prudent action would be for Liberty Mutual to stop insuring the tar sands sector immediately,” said Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN).
“Liberty Mutual is propping up and insuring Big Oil at the expense of the health and safety of Indigenous communities, farmers, and ranchers along the proposed routes of the Keystone XL and Trans Mountain pipelines. In this moment of fragility for all our communities facing the compound effects of COVID-19 and the climate crisis, it’s time to halt ill timed investments in fossil fuel projects doomed to failure. It’s time for insurers to stop acting as validators for a dying industry and completely change their priorities. We demand that Liberty Mutual invest instead in the expansion and development of renewable infrastructure and public programs that prioritize care and repair of communities made vulnerable by fossil fuel investments. These are the ways to repair harm,” said Kendall Mackey, Keep It In the Ground Campaigner at 350.org.
“It is clear that Liberty Mutual is not at all serious about taking important steps to stop their underwriting of climate chaos and carbon pollution,” said Chris Wilke, Global Advocacy Manager at Waterkeeper Alliance. “Their continued investment in, and underwriting of, dirty energy projects places us all at risk.”
“Tar sands oil extraction directly results in the contamination of food and water for First Nations communities in Canada. In backing this highly destructive industry, Liberty Mutual is sending the message that profits matter more than the health and lives of Indigenous families and the environment they live in,” said Daily Kos communications director Carolyn Fiddler. “Daily Kos is proud to be in solidarity with First Nations peoples and call on Liberty Mutual to end its insurance coverage for tar sands oil and other fossil fuels.”
“This campaign is just getting started. We will continue to spotlight Liberty Mutual’s role fueling the climate crisis and backing Indigenous rights abuses until its policies and practices meet the scale of the climate crisis and respect human rights,” said Elana Sulakshana, Energy Finance Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network.
The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International
www.wecaninternational.org - @WECAN_INTL
The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International is a 501(c)3 and solutions-based organization established to engage women worldwide in policy advocacy, on-the-ground projects, trainings, and movement building for global climate justice.