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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.”


Regulator seeks opinions on Trans Mountain pipeline process resumption

The National Energy Board has issued a certificate for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion after it was approved by Ottawa last week, but is seeking input from affected parties and the public on its resumption of regulatory processes.

The federal regulator says it will accept public comments online or via fax or mail until July 5, and has set a deadline for initial company comment of next Friday, with reply comments due on July 9.

It is proposing to continue processes that were underway and to rely on decisions and orders issued before the Federal Court of Appeal struck down federal approval of the project last August, “unless relevant circumstances have materially changed.”

Ian Anderson, CEO of the Crown corporation building the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, said shovels could be in the ground by September and oil could be flowing in new segments of the pipeline between Edmonton and the West Coast by mid-2022.

But that timeline depends on the NEB being able to reinstate the record from the previous regulatory proceedings so that the project can be brought back to the same state of construction readiness as last summer, he said, a process he expected to take some weeks.

The NEB says it wants to provide clarity on next steps for the project as efficiently as possible.

“Following the comment period, the NEB will decide how the regulatory processes will resume. Until that decision is made, Trans Mountain cannot rely on previously issued decisions and orders to start or resume project construction,” it said in a statement.


Premiers Kenney, Moe to work together on rig rules as they meet in Saskatchewan

Premiers Moe and Kenney.

Premiers Moe and Kenney.

The premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan are pledging to harmonize regulations governing the movement of oil and gas rigs in the two provinces.

Jason Kenney and Scott Moe have signed a memorandum of understanding noting that some commercial trucking rules are not suitable for service rigs, which spend most of the time in a field, not on a road.

The goal is to make it easier for rigs to be moved from job site to job site in both provinces without getting bogged down by two sets of rules.

The agreement was signed as Kenney and Moe appeared together at an oil trade show in Weyburn, Sask.

The two conservative premiers praised the policies of their respective governments, while taking shots at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal carbon tax.

Both heralded their support for pipelines and say they are confident the federal government will approve the stalled construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion by the June 18 deadline.