SOMPO Joins the Growing List of Insurance Companies with Policies that Protect the Arctic Refuge
A Total of 14 International Insurers No Longer Support Oil and Gas Drilling in the Sacred Coastal Plain
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Fairbanks, AK – On May 27, the Japanese-based insurance company SOMPO released a new policy commitment that rules out oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, stating SOMPO will “stop underwriting new policy or investment for tar sands and energy exploration projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”
SOMPO joins a growing list of insurers that have put forward new policies prohibiting investments and insurance in oil and gas projects in the Arctic. This announcement follows the March 2022 release of the Gwich’in Steering Committee’s scorecard rating the policy of primary global insurance. The addition of SOMPO makes for 14 international insurance companies with commitments to refuse insurance for new oil and gas projects in the Refuge.
“Our people have depended on the Porcupine Caribou Herd since time immemorial, and for thousands of years, every spring, they migrate to the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where they will give birth to over 40,000 calves in just a two week period. This place is so sacred to our people that we never set foot there. We have the duty to our grandchildren and Indigenous Peoples around the world to stand up for our sacred sites,” said Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. “This is a major win for those working to protect the refuge, as SOMPO ranks 4th in market share for surety in Alaska. We are deeply grateful to the companies standing with us to protect this sacred land. We call on all insurers, including those in the U.S., to show the same courage and put people and all life ahead of profits.”
This announcement makes SOMPO the first Japanese insurer to rule out insurance for development and exploration in the Arctic Refuge. In addition to the growing list of international insurance companies with such policies, U.S. insurer AIG recently implemented a policy that ruled out any new Arctic energy exploration. Other major U.S. insurers such as Travelers, The Hartford, Chubb, and Liberty Mutual failed to respond to multiple communications from the Gwich’in Steering Committee since the initial request in 2020. Twenty-nine global banks – including all six major U.S. banks and five major Canadian banks – prohibit project-level financing for development in the Arctic Refuge.
The Gwich’in people are the northernmost Indian Nations living in 15 small villages across Alaska and Canada. Since time immemorial, the Gwich’in have been stewards of these lands, which include the Coastal Plain in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The 1.5 million acres of the Coastal Plain are sacred as the calving ground of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, on which the Gwich’in and other Indigenous communities depend to sustain their people and culture.
Unfortunately, the Coastal Plain has been under threat of development for decades, and in 2021 was opened for oil and gas lease sales by the Trump Administration. Since then, the Biden Administration suspended lease activity to implement a fulsome environmental assessment of potential impacts of development. However, the Coastal Plain remains vulnerable to harm from oil and gas development until Congress takes action to restore protections.
To learn more about the advocacy work and campaigns targeting financial institutions that the Gwich’in Steering Committee and allies have engaged in, please visit ourarcticrefuge.org.