Trans Mountain Insurer Argo Group Commits to Cut Ties with the Pipeline CompanyLloyd’s syndicate member Argo joins more than 10 other insurers that will not insure Trans Mountain, citing no “risk appetite” for tar sands pipelines
June 3, 2021 – Trans Mountain insurer and Lloyd’s of London syndicate Argo Group has pledged to cut ties with the existing Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline when its current insurance policy expires on August 31, 2021, and to not insure the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. Following the Canadian authorities’ decision to hide the project’s insurance backers from public scrutiny, Argo is the first insurer to drop the pipeline in this year’s round of policy renewals, joining more than ten insurance companies that have vowed not to touch Trans Mountain.
In an email to Public Citizen, Argo stated: “We currently insure the Trans Mountain pipeline, but do not intend to renew it when the policy expires in August 2021. This type of project is not currently within Argo’s risk appetite.” Argo further clarified that it also does not intend to insure construction or operation of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.
“We commend Argo and the other insurers for leading the way by dropping Trans Mountain. In addition to fuelling the climate crisis, this pipeline represents an ongoing violation of Indigenous rights. The lack of Free, Prior and Informed Consent is a material risk that most insurers have not fully captured, and that needs to change. We are calling on the rest of the Lloyd’s syndicates, as well as AIG, Chubb and Liberty Mutual to follow Argo’s path,” said Charlene Aleck of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative.
This news comes in advance of the Stop Insuring Trans Mountain Week of Action, taking place later this month from June 14-21. Over the course of this week, organizations and activists from the US to Germany to Sierra Leone will be targeting the likely insurers of Trans Mountain – which include insurance giants AIG, Chubb, Liberty Mutual, and Lloyd’s of London – urging them to follow Argo’s lead and stop insuring Trans Mountain’s destructive, rights-violating pipelines. Trans Mountain is currently seeking to secure coverage for 2021-2022, with the support of its broker Marsh.
“The Trans Mountain pipeline is too risky to go forward. Argo Group’s decision to drop the project is just the latest in the long line of clear signals that this pipeline is a danger to the climate, Canada’s west coast, and the communities it runs through. The only remaining question is when will the Trudeau government catch up to Argo, and the growing number of major insurers, that have acknowledged that this project does have a place in a climate-safe world,” said Sven Biggs, Canadian Oil and Gas Program Director at Stand.earth.
Insurers are rapidly recognizing the massive risks with the aging Trans Mountain pipeline and the oil expansion project, which would increase emissions equivalent to adding 2.2 million cars to the road and has been continuously delayed in the face of fierce Indigenous-led resistance. More than ten insurance companies have now specifically ruled out coverage for the company or adopted tar sands exclusion policies that restrict involvement, as insurance support for the tar sands sector dwindles.
In summer 2020, Trans Mountain’s lead insurer, Zurich, dropped Trans Mountain after sustained campaigning from Indigenous leaders and climate advocates, as did German insurers Talanx and Munich Re. Canada’s Energy Regulator and the recent International Energy Agency report have both made clear that the Trans Mountain expansion project and any expanded oil and gas infrastructure is incompatible with global climate targets.
In addition to Argo, Lloyd’s syndicate Lancashire Group stated last month that it did not insure Trans Mountain and did not intend to do so in the future: “The Group does not have an appetite for underwriting direct insurance exposure for the Trans Mountain pipeline. The Lancashire Syndicates will be closely adhering to the Lloyd’s market policy on fossil fuel insurance.”
Lindsay Keenan, European Coordinator for Insure Our Future, said “Argo’s commitment to not renew insurance of Trans Mountain should be a signal to the rest of the Lloyd’s market to follow suit. Lloyd’s CEO John Neal needs to make a clear statement on behalf of all of Lloyd’s members that no Lloyd’s syndicate shall renew insurance for any aspect of the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline.”
In February 2021, the Canadian-owned Trans Mountain corporation petitioned the Canada Energy Regulator to keep the names of its insurance backers secret, stating that it had “observed increasing reluctance from insurance companies to offer insurance coverage for the Pipeline and to do so at a reasonable price.” The Canada Energy Regulator approved the request on April 29, 2021, and Trans Mountain’s most recent insurance certificate was publicly filed with the insurance company names redacted.
“This announcement from Argo makes clear that hiding the details of Trans Mountain’s insurance backers does nothing to address the serious risks of this pipeline: lack of consent from Indigenous communities, decaying infrastructure, mounting costs, and a massive carbon footprint,” said Elana Sulakshana, Energy Finance Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network. “History will not look kindly on any company that is continuing to insure massive tar sands expansion projects in 2021.”
Companies named on the certificate last year that have yet to rule out continued support for the project include AIG, Chubb, Energy Insurance Limited, Liberty Mutual, Lloyd’s of London, Starr, Stewart Specialty Risk Underwriting, and W.R. Berkley. According to the most recent, but redacted, certificate, Marsh is again Trans Mountain’s insurance broker.
“The insurance industry should follow Argo’s lead and reject fossil fuel infrastructure that jeopardizes our oceans and climate. The existing Trans Mountain Pipeline puts the entire West Coast region at risk of a catastrophic oil spill — threatening communities, Indigenous peoples, and Southern Resident orca whales,” added Marcie Keever, Oceans & Vessels Program Director at Friends of the Earth U.S. “The rest of the insurance industry must join those who have already refused to support the climate-destroying Trans Mountain Pipeline.”
“Today’s news is just the latest in a long history of events detailing why the Trans Mountain pipeline and extension project must be stopped. Exacerbating the climate crisis and violating Indigenous Rights is indefensible, and we are pleased to see Argo Group become the latest insurer to recognize this fact. It’s past time that every insurer follows suit, and stops all business with Trans Mountain,” said Jordan Giaconia, Campaign Representative at Sierra Club.
- Lloyd’s of London is an insurance marketplace made up of around 80 insurance companies who together insure some of the riskiest and most controversial projects in the world. Lloyd’s syndicates are likely the lead insurers for the existing Trans Mountain pipeline for 2020-21. In December, the Lloyd’s marketplace adopted a weak policy restricting involvement with tar sands projects like Trans Mountain’s pipelines, asking insurance companies that operate within Lloyd’s to not provide new insurance cover for tar sands projects by 2022, but the policy allows for continued coverage for the tar sands sector until 2030.
- If built, the Trans Mountain Expansion Project would transport an additional 590,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Alberta to British Columbia, and lead to a 700% increase in oil tankers in the Salish Sea. Many Indigenous communities have consistently and repeatedly rejected the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project – but the Canadian government continues to plough ahead with construction.
Communications contact: Kaela Bamberger, [email protected], 202-222-0703