Last week, the Texas Campaign for the Environment participated in the “Stop Insuring Trans Mountain” pipeline global movement and held a protest in front of Liberty Mutual in Plano. The small group of protesters, which included both environmental and indigenous rights activists, were seeking to inspire insurance companies such as Liberty Mutual to focus on life instead of profit and protect the Southern Resident killer whales, the climate, coastal ecosystems, indigenous lands and Canadians.
When completed, the Trans Mountain pipeline will transport an additional 590,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Alberta to British Columbia, causing a 700% increase in oil tankers in the Salish Sea, according to "Challenging the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion" by Ecojustice, Canada's largest environmental law charity.
For about six years now, Ecojustice lawyers, representing the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Living Oceans Society, have been fighting the pipeline in court, and they weren't alone. The Colwater Indian Band, Upper Nicola Band, Squamish Nation, Stk'emlupsemc Te Secwepemc Nation, Sto:lo Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation all filed lawsuits to stop it. The City of Burnaby and City of Vancouver also challenged it in court, and, according to Ecojustice, the government of British Columbia intervened in the hearing.
The Canadian government approved the project once and lost in court. A couple of years later, it approved it again and won. Now, the Trans Mountain pipeline is looking for insurers to back the project since its insurance coverage expires on Aug. 31. And the Texas Campaign for the Environment is hoping that Liberty Mutual doesn’t continue to insure it.
This is the second time the TCE has protested Liberty Mutual. The group stood outside the same Liberty Mutual almost, to the date, three months ago on Monday, March 15 looking to protest and raise awareness of insurance companies like Liberty Mutual funding projects that negatively impact the environment as part of a global movement to "Stop Funding Tar Sands: Day of Solidarity with Frontline Communities."
To find out why these campaigns should matter to Collin County, Local Profile asked Kevin Richardson, program coordinator for the Texas Campaign for the Environment, a series of questions.
Why did you guys decide to protest outside of Liberty Mutual again?
“We joined a Global Week of Action to call on Liberty Mutual and other insurers to stop insuring the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Insurance is a prerequisite for the pipeline’s continued operation, and with Trans Mountain’s current insurance certificate expiring Aug. 31, the pipeline’s broker is shopping for its next insurance policy. As the number of insurers with the expertise and risk appetite for insuring tar sands dwindles, activists are calling on insurers who listed in the most recent public certificate, including Liberty Mutual, AIG, Chubb, and Lloyd’s of London, to drop the pipeline. We are also calling on Liberty Mutual to end its practice of insuring and investing in fossil fuel projects that create dangerous pollution and threaten our future by increasing climate pollution.”
Why are you guys holding companies like Liberty Mutual accountable for climate change?
“The oil and gas industry is the predominant source of climate pollution across the globe, and it’s continuing to expand at a dangerous pace. Without the support of major insurance firms like Liberty Mutual, which insures dirty fossil fuel projects, fossil fuel companies would not be able to continue extracting oil and natural gas at a rate that threatens our future. As the International Energy Agency recently concluded, companies like Liberty Mutual need to stop all new oil and gas investments in order to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Texans are no strangers to these issues — Texas is home to a massive oil and gas expansion in the Permian Basin and along the Gulf Coast that could imperil our ability to limit global warming, and we’ve experienced the extreme weather effects that climate change brings, from intense winter storms and hurricanes to droughts and high summer temperatures. Liberty Mutual has many employees here in Texas that must live through those climate impacts. The company should do better and stop insuring and investing in fossil fuel projects.”
How has Liberty Mutual responded to your protests?
“Despite numerous efforts to sit down and discuss these issues with Liberty Mutual leadership, the company has refused to meet with us, with Indigenous communities or coalition allies for more than two years now. They appear to be burying their head in the sand and just hoping we — and global climate change — just go away. Neither of which will be the case, of course.
“By continuing to cover dirty projects like Trans Mountain, Liberty Mutual is putting profit over the ability of all Texans and all Americans to live healthy lives and have a stable climate to thrive in. These projects harm the climate and local ecosystems, and projects like Trans Mountain threaten the rights and livelihoods of indigenous communities. Liberty Mutual and other large firms are trading our health and our future for short-term profits by insuring these projects.”
What do you guys hope comes out of this most recent protest?
“We hope that Liberty Mutual agrees to meet with indigenous leaders as well as activists and community members from around the world who demand they take action to protect indigenous rights and stop supporting fossil fuel projects that threaten our future. We hope that Liberty Mutual will listen to indigenous leaders who are calling on them to drop the Trans Mountain Pipeline. It’s past time that Liberty Mutual put the health and safety of Texans over its profit margins and stopped supporting polluting oil and gas projects, especially if the company wants its plans to make progress on climate change be more than just a PR stunt. Until Liberty Mutual does that, we won’t stop.”