The world’s biggest publicly-traded provider of property and casualty insurance has issued what may be the world’s quietest media statement confirming that it will no longer offer coverage to the Trans Mountain pipeline.
In a six-line news alert Tuesday, Bloomberg News confirmed that Chubb was stepping away from future involvement with any tar sands/oil sands projects. But the company wouldn’t be any more specific than that.
“As a matter of company policy and customer privacy, we don’t confirm or deny the identity of our clients,” Chubb said in a statement.
The short dispatch followed a flurry of social media activity triggered by a single tweet Tuesday from Financial Times insurance correspondent Ian Smith. “Chubb does not provide insurance coverage for any tar sands projects,” a spokesperson told Smith earlier this week.
Chubb hasn’t explicitly confirmed that its definition of “tar sands projects” includes pipelines built to carry the product, and the company’s neither-confirm-nor-deny policy might explain the lack of clarity. The Energy Mix sent telephone and email queries to two Chubb media contacts, but neither had replied by the time today’s digest went to virtual press.
The information vacuum points back to Trans Mountain’s successful effort earlier this year to conceal the identity of all its insurance providers, claiming that campaigners focusing on the climate emergency and Indigenous rights were making it tougher for the controversial, C$12.6- or $20-billion project to line up coverage. The request came from the Crown corporation now responsible for building the pipeline with taxpayers’ dollars, and the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) approved it, prompting at least one critic to suggest the federal agency’s acronym might actually stand for “Captured Energy Regulator”.
“If you’ve got a situation where insurers see that the regulator is captured, is actually controlled by the company that it’s supposed to regulate, it means [governments] can’t trust the CER do the job of keeping Trans Mountain responsible and accountable,” retired insurance executive Robyn Allan told The Mix in June. The decision allowing Trans Mountain to keep its insurers secret also showed favouritism compared to the CER’s treatment of Indigenous intervenors on the project, she added.
“So, yes, the CER has exacerbated the problem,” she said. “It holds Trans Mountain to a different standard than it holds First Nations, environmental intervenors, landowners, and anyone else who is a party to these hearings. That would certainly scare me as an insurer.”
This week’s Bloomberg dispatch notes that Chubb was included in regulatory filings that listed Trans Mountain’s insurers for 2020. That coverage ran out August 31, prompting a wave of advocacy urging insurance providers to stay clear of the project this year.
Earlier this week, the CER ruled that Calgary-based pipeliner TC Energy can also keep the names of its insurance providers confidential.
Last month, an analysis by French investment banking giant Société Générale concluded that the 10 companies that insure the lion’s share of oil and gas exploration and production could drop those high-carbon industries and increase their own shareholder value, but are choosing not to.