Liberty Mutual faces pressure to exit tar sands from policyholders, climate, Indigenous rights groups

Liberty Mutual faces pressure to exit tar sands from policyholders, climate, Indigenous rights groups

Wednesday April 08, 2020

Broad coalition pledges to ramp up campaign on Liberty Mutual following inaction at company’s annual policyholder meeting

BOSTON – Today, at its annual policyholder meeting, Liberty Mutual refused to answer questions about its role propping up the tar sands oil industry and fueling climate change that were submitted by dozens of policyholders in recent weeks. The insurance giant did not include time or space for policyholders to speak or vote during the virtual meeting, which lasted all of six minutes. 

“Today’s meeting confirms that Liberty Mutual has not yet reversed its reckless decisions to insure the highly controversial Trans Mountain and Keystone XL tar sands pipelines,” said Randi Mail, insurance organizer at Rainforest Action Network. “More than 50,000 people are calling on the company to drop its coverage for these 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.” 

On the heels of a groundswell of grassroots pressure, Liberty Mutual adopted a coal policy in December 2019, though it continues to insure new coal projects and has no restrictions on oil and gas business. In recent months, Liberty Mutual’s major role in propping up the tar sands sector has been exposed.

“The tar sands are among the most climate intensive forms of oil in the world. Supporting an industry that is driving up claims for floods and fires, and is increasingly economically unviable, doesn’t make sense for Liberty Mutual or for Canadians,” said Sven Biggs, Canadian Oil and Gas Programs Director, Stand.earth.

“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 $1.1 billion 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.”

The momentum to stop insuring pipeline expansion costs has been ongoing. In addition to pressuring Liberty Mutual to exit the tar sands, over 50,000 people signed a petition in August 2019 calling on insurance companies – including Liberty Mutual – to drop the Trans Mountain pipeline, citing the massive political and environmental risks from one of the most contentious and costly energy projects in Canada’s history.

In spite of pleas from local elected officials and Indigenous leaders to not bring workers into their communities right now, Trans Mountain still intends to move forward with plans to drill under the Thompson River this month.

“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.

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, including Stand.earth, Rainforest Action Network, and Indigenous Environmental Network. 

“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 with Liberty Mutual," 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.”

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Media contact: Sven Biggs, Canadian Oil and Gas Programs Director, sven@stand.earth, 778-882-8354