BP Withdraws From Pro-Arctic Drilling Group(A)
Just as Republicans are regrouping for another legislative battle to open up the Arctic Wildlife National Refuge to oil drilling, the energy giant BP has confirmed that it has withdrawn its sponsorship of Arctic Power, a key lobbying group for pro-drilling forces. Environmental groups and social investment firms, including Trillium Asset Management, had been pressing BP to abandon Artic Power for several years.
BP has been a corporate member of Arctic Power, paying dues of $50,000 per year. While a drop in the bucket to the third largest oil company in the world, that amount was “at the top of the scale,” for Arctic Power, according to a spokeswoman for the group.
Athan Manuel, who directs the Arctic wilderness campaign at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, told the New York Times, “I think it was a confluence of things,” that contributed to BP’s decision. “They seem to have studied the geology and teh economics of how much oil they can get out of there, and I think they decided they can’t get the oil out economically. So it’s financially risky. And politically, it’s not a popular stance.”
BP downplayed the significance of its withdrawal in the Times article. A spokesman noted that the company will continue to invest $500 million annually in its existing Alaskan operations and would consider drilling in the Refuge “when and if the American people decide [it] should be opened.”
Despite these uncertainties, with this move BP becomes the first major oil company to disassociate itself from aggressive lobbying to open up the Refuge, and that is reason to cheer. In recent years, shareholder activists were successful in influencing auto companies to withdraw from the Global Climate Change Coalition (GCCC), a group that propogates the false notion that climate scientists are deeply divided as to whether human economic activity exacerbates the trend toward global warming. The ensuing exodus of corporate sponsors led the GCCC to reconfigure without corporate membership.
Trillium Asset Management has been in active dialogue with BP about the Arctic Refuge in recent years. We co- sponsored a shareholder proposal in 2001, and in 2002, represented a U.S. shareholder coalition at BP’s annual meeting in London. We will continue to press BP to avoid drilling in the Arctic and other areas that are ecologically or socially sensitive.
For more information, visit our Arctic Refuge page.