Oil Giant BP faces a barrage of criticism from investors at today’s AGM at the Excel Centre in London Docklands over the environmental cost of its controversial tar sands project in Canada.
BP’s showcase presentation to investors and shareholders is being overshadowed by a resolution tabled by over 140 shareholders asking the oil firm to produce a report detailing the risks associated with its dirty tar sands development.
The shareholders are demanding that the companies commission reports setting out the assumptions they make when deciding on oil sands investments, including factors such as oil prices, the cost of greenhouse gas emissions, and “legal and reputational risks arising from local environmental damage and impairment of traditional livelihoods”.
The protest vote is being led by responsible investment charity FairPensions and Co-operative Asset Management.
Catherine Howarth, chief executive of FairPensions, said: “The shareholder resolution process has scored important victories. BP has made its first disclosures about tar sands as a result of this campaign, and although we do not think they have gone far enough, the debate and support generated in the City has sent a signal to BP that the company’s management cannot ignore.”
BP is expected to be successful in opposing the resolution.
In the company’s sustainability review released today, Tony Hayward, the company’s chief executive, tries to defend the company’s environmental impact.
He tries to argue that greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands extraction are not always higher than from other forms of production, saying there is “a wide range of emissions in both oil sands and conventional crudes”.
In its document released today, BP argues that it will use in-situ steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) to extract the oil and “as there is no mining there will be no tailing ponds.”
But that may be so for BP’s operations but not the tar sands as a whole.
Yesterday, a coalition of environmental organizations and citizens filed a submission with the environmental side-body of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC).
The submission alleges that the Canadian government has failing to enforce the anti-pollution provisions of the federal Fisheries Act by allowing the tar sands tailings ponds to leak contaminated materials into both surface waters and groundwater in the Athabasca watershed.
“Big oil is getting away with polluting waters that flow all the way to the Arctic,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, Senior Attorney with the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “In the meantime, Canada is pushing tar sands oil in the United States without disclosing the enormous potential for damage to North American waters.”
“I live downstream from the tailings ponds, and not a day goes by that I don’t worry about what they are doing to the rivers and lakes where I hunt, fish and live,” said John Rigney, a citizen of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, and signatory to the submission. “When will the boosters of the tar sands learn that you can’t drink oil?”