GSC Scorecard Rates Insurance Companies on Arctic Refuge Policies
International insurers win gold and silver medals while American companies fall short
For Immediate Release
FAIRBANKS, ALASKA (August 10, 2021) – Today the Gwich’in Steering Committee sent to domestic and international insurance companies a scorecard that rates them on whether they have enacted policies against insuring oil and gas development projects on the sacred Coastal Plain of the Refuge. The 1.5 million-acre Coastal Plain is the calving ground of the Porcupine Caribou Herd on which Gwich’in and other Indigenous communities depend to sustain their families and culture. After decades of bipartisan protection for the Arctic Refuge, and without regard for the human rights of Indigenous people or national public opinion, the Trump administration opened the area to oil and gas leasing in 2017.
“My people have depended on the caribou for thousands of years, and the Trump administration’s greedy and heartless effort to allow drilling disrespects our humanity and our sovereignty. We have a duty to our grandchildren and Indigenous people around the world to stand up for our sacred sites,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. “We are deeply grateful to the companies that are standing with us, but those who have failed to tell the world they support the rights of Indigenous people need to get on board.”
“Our lives and our sovereignty are not negotiable. We will not allow the oil industry to destroy Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit, the Sacred Place Where Life Begins,” Demientieff added. “Caribou are the foundation of our songs, stories and dances, and the basis of our identity and spirituality, culture and way of life. Our identity is non-negotiable and our culture is not for sale.”
The scorecard awards gold medals to six international insurers for issuing clear public statements that they will not insure development projects in the Arctic Refuge, while four earned silver for issuing policies or statements barring such coverage in the Arctic but without specifically citing the Arctic Refuge. Bronze winners have met with the Gwich’in Steering Committee but have not issued policies in writing, and multiple companies either failed to earn a medal or they were listed as disqualified for not even responding to requests to meet with Gwich’in leaders.
The majority of the public opposes drilling in the Arctic Refuge, and the six largest banks in the United States and the five largest banks in Canada have stated publicly that they will not finance projects there.
President Biden has suspended leases that were issued on the final day of the Trump administration following a January lease sale, and the U.S. Department of the Interior announced last week that it will review the leasing program to address its deep legal deficiencies and potential environmental impacts. Unless Congress takes action to restore protections for sacred lands in the Coastal Plain, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act requires another lease sale in 2024.