Liberty Mutual policyholders demand action on tar sands and Indigenous rights
Indigenous Environmental Network
Liberty Mutual’s role in the fossil fuel industry is coming under increasing scrutiny. In advance of the company’s annual policyholder meeting on April 8, dozens of customers have asked if Liberty Mutual will drop coverage of the Keystone XL and Trans Mountain tar sands pipelines, rule out the entire tar sands sector, and stop supporting fossil fuel expansion. The company is expected to respond to these questions during the meeting.
As a mutual company, Liberty Mutual is technically owned and governed by customers, and key votes like the Board of Directors take place at an annual meeting for policyholders. However, the meeting is being held virtually this year due to COVID-19, and Liberty Mutual is not allowing policyholders to raise questions and concerns in the meeting itself.
“Liberty Mutual is undermining democratic governance of the company and stifling policyholder voices. I demand a response to my questions about Liberty’s role in the fossil fuel industry at the meeting this week, and I hope that Liberty Mutual announces that it will drop support for tar sands and all new fossil fuel projects. If not, I will find an insurance company that is accelerating a just transition to a sustainable economy,” said Paola Massoli, a Liberty Mutual policyholder from Somerville, Massachusetts.
As a top global insurer of coal, oil, and gas and major player in the tar sands sector, Liberty Mutual is a key target of the Stop the Money Pipeline campaign, which is made up of 90+ climate, environmental, and Indigenous rights organizations, including Rainforest Action Network, Indigenous Environmental Network, 350.org, and others.
“Liberty Mutual is currently in the spotlight for insuring the highly controversial Keystone XL and Trans Mountain tar sands pipelines. More than 50,000 people are calling on the company to drop its coverage for these pipelines and rule out the tar sands sector entirely, particularly as fossil fuel corporations plow ahead with pipeline construction in the midst of a pandemic,” said Elana Sulakshana, Energy Finance Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network.
Just last week, the Government of Alberta invested $1.1 billion and announced an additional $4.2 billion in loan guarantees, greenlighting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Days later, Wall Street banks led a $1.25 billion bond issuance for TC Energy, the company behind Keystone, even though the project has not secured the consent of impacted Indigenous nations along the pipeline route and is the subject of active litigation. Pre-construction is already beginning on the pipeline, with the support of Liberty Mutual’s $15.6 million bond to cover construction-related risks.
“Our tribal nations cannot access the insurance money should a catastrophic event happen because of Keystone XL. Yet, this pipeline crosses our treaty lands and waters, which skirt our reservation boundaries. This zombie pipeline puts my people at risk by posing an increased threat to women and increasing crime, and further stretching the health resources in rural South Dakota during this worldwide pandemic. Liberty Mutual needs to think twice about backing a company that is willing to put so much risk to our tribes and state,” said Joye Braun, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and frontline organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network.
In December 2019, Liberty Mutual adopted a policy to restrict coal insurance and investing. However, the company has not said anything publicly about tar sands and continues to insure oil and gas with reckless abandon. Globally, nineteen insurers have policies to limit coal insurance, and five have restricted insurance for the tar sands sector.
“As a longtime policyholder and part-owner of Liberty Mutual, I expect bold action from the company’s leadership at the annual meeting this week,” said Sabine von Mering, a Liberty Mutual policyholder from Wayland, Massachusetts. “Customers, impacted communities, and concerned citizens will continue to spotlight Liberty Mutual’s role fueling the climate crisis and backing Indigenous rights abuses until the company exits the tar sands sector, stops insuring all fossil fuel expansion, and aligns with a 1.5ºC future.”
Established in 1990, The Indigenous Environmental Network is an international environmental justice nonprofit that works with tribal grassroots organizations to build the capacity of Indigenous communities. Indigenous Environmental Network’s activities include empowering Indigenous communities and tribal governments to develop mechanisms to protect our sacred sites, land, water, air, natural resources, the health of both our people and all living things, and to build economically sustainable communities.
Learn more here: ienearth.org