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Activists call on insurance firms to stop coverage of Trans Mountain pipeline

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 has said it will continue to serve the federal government-owned company.

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, the coalition of 32 groups said in a news release on Thursday.

“The coalition hopes that by pushing companies to drop their existing insurance policies with Trans Mountain and to stop insuring future oilsands projects, it will show the Canadian government that the expansion is uninsurable and should not continue,” the activists say in a news release.

In a response, Trans Mountain said it isn’t concerned about obtaining property and business interruption insurance that’s appropriate for a company of its size.

“Trans Mountain has all the required and necessary insurance in place for our existing operations and for the expansion project and we will do so moving forward,” it said in an emailed statement.

“We have no reason to expect any issues with renewal.”

It added it will have $1 billion in financial capacity for cleaning up oil spills as required by legislation.

In a copy of the letter sent to 27 insurers, the coalition asks them to avoid the “reputational and financial risk” of supporting the pipeline from Edmonton to the West Coast 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.

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

The activists provided a copy of a letter they say is from the company’s CEO, noting that while Zurich’s policy is to restrict insuring oilsands assets, its position is to talk to Trans Mountain’s owner 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 coalition 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.”