12.21.20

Merkley, Colleagues Push 22 Financial Services Companies to Prioritize American Health, Safety, Economic Security by Not Insuring Arctic Drilling

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley teamed up with U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) to press executives of 22 financial services companies to not insure any oil and gas developments in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, citing significant financial risk, catastrophic damage to one of the world’s most delicate ecosystems, and the acceleration of climate chaos.

The senators’ letters—which were sent to AIG, Allianz, Aviva, AXIS, Chubb, CNA, Generali, Liberty Mutual, Lloyd’s, Markel, Munich Re, QBE, RLI, SCOR, Sompo, Swiss Re, Talanx, The Hartford, Tokio Marine, Travelers, WR Berkley, and Zurich Cantonal Bank—follow a series of efforts by the Trump administration to auction off Arctic Refuge oil and gas leases in the coming weeks before the Biden administration is sworn in.

“The Arctic is on the frontline of climate crisis, warming at three times the rate of the rest of the world. Fossil fuel extraction in these areas risks exacerbating climate chaos and irreparably damaging the local environment,” the lawmakers wrote.

In addition to highlighting the detrimental impacts of boosting the use of fossil fuels on the future of our planet, the senators emphasized the financial risks of investing in Arctic oil extraction—risks that have led 27 major financial institutions, including five major American banks, to decide not to invest in Arctic oil and gas development projects.

“Oil and gas development in the Arctic is increasingly financially risky. Arctic drilling operations would face extreme and treacherous conditions with severely limited access to respond to an oil spill or an accident. The environmental, social, and governance factors linked with these developments will likely expose your company to unnecessary reputation, legal, and financial risk,” they continued.

In light of their grave concerns, the senators requested that the companies not insure the exploration, production, or transportation of oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; implement a formal policy prohibiting new insurance products or the extension of existing insurance products—such as surety bonds, commercial multiple peril insurance, and reinsurance—to cover Arctic oil and gas projects; and rule out investments in companies involved in Arctic Refuge development. The lawmakers requested that these new policies and announcements be made publicly, and that the executives inform the lawmakers of the actions they take regarding the requests by December 31.

The full text of the letter is available here and follows below.

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As you may be aware, the Trump Administration recently finalized plans to sell oil leases in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the final days of their administration. Any companies interested in leasing in the Arctic Refuge will be looking for new insurance coverage for their planned developments. Exploring drilling in the Arctic Refuge is financially risky given the historic low of oil prices and the transition away from fossil fuels happening around the world.

We ask that you put the health and safety of the planet and the people dependent upon the Arctic Refuge first and not insure any oil and gas developments in the Arctic Refuge.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the world’s most delicate ecosystems. It is a sacred space to the Gwich’in people and has supported the lives and livelihoods of Indigenous populations and subsistence hunters for thousands of years. It is also home to endangered species such as bowhead whales, polar bears, and ringed seals and it supports critically important fisheries and migratory birds. The Arctic is on the frontline of climate crisis, warming at three times the rate of the rest of the world. Fossil fuel extraction in these areas risks exacerbating climate chaos and irreparably damaging the local environment.

Oil and gas development in the Arctic is increasingly financially risky. Arctic drilling operations would face extreme and treacherous conditions with severely limited access to respond to an oil spill or an accident. The environmental, social, and governance factors linked with these developments will likely expose your company to unnecessary reputation, legal, and financial risk. In light of this financial risk 27 major financial institutions,[1] including five major American banks, have already decided not to invest in oil and gas development in the Arctic.

In addition, this development is fraught with legal challenges. There are four active lawsuits challenging the Arctic Refuge leasing program including multiple complaints filed by several tribal communities who depend on the Arctic Refuge and its natural resources to sustain their communities, cultures, and ways of life.

We ask that your company: 

  1. Not insure the exploration, production, or transportation of oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge;
  1. Implement a formal policy prohibiting new insurance products or the extension of existing insurance contracts to cover the exploration, production, or transportation of oil and gas in the Arctic Refuge, including surety bonds, commercial multiple peril insurance, and reinsurance;
  1. Rule out investments in companies involved in Arctic Refuge development and those that do not have policies prohibiting their own involvement in the Arctic Refuge; and
  1. Make these new policies and announcements open to the public.

We request that you consider the policy changes listed above regarding oil and gas development for the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the health and safety of the communities it serves. Please respond to inform us about the actions you take regarding our requests by December 31st. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,



[1] https://www.banktrack.org/campaign/banks_and_arctic_oil_and_gas