From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[ENS] Victory for Arctic drilling opponents at BP general

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Fri, 16 Apr 2004 14:20:06 -0700

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Victory for Arctic drilling opponents at BP general meeting

By John Johnson

ENS 041504-1

[ENS] For the first time publicly, BP, third largest oil company and fifth 
largest corporation in the world, announced today that it has no future 
plans to drill in the Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The 
announcement came immediately following comments made by Bishop Mark 
MacDonald of Alaska, who was present at the 2004 BP Annual General Meeting 
in London to co-present a shareholder's resolution directing BP to report 
on the risks associated with operating in sensitive and protected areas, 
including ANWR.

"This is certainly a significant announcement for the Gwich'in people, who 
are arguably one of the most Anglican native nations in the world," said 
Bishop MacDonald to reporters following the shareholder's meeting, which 
drew nearly 2000 investors, media, environmentalists and protestors to 
London's Royal Festival Hall. "The scope of the resolution would have 
recognized the concerns of other indigenous peoples in its operations 
around the world."

The announcement was made by Peter D. Sutherland, chairman of the 
Chairman's Committee of BP (formerly British Petroleum). This is the first 
time BP has publicly announced that drilling in the sensitive Arctic 
National Wildlife Refuge is not part of the company's current business 
plan. Sutherland was careful to portray BP's concern for the rights and 
needs of indigenous peoples.

"For centuries, the Christian moral tradition and the Western legal 
tradition have consistently promoted aboriginal rights as a fundamental 
element of basic and minimal commitment to justice," said MacDonald in his 
presentation to the board and investors. "These traditions have been 
underlined in the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of 
Indigenous Peoples."

Article 25 of that declaration, which is supported by many nations but not 
officially by the United States, says, "Indigenous peoples have the right 
to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual and material 
relationship with the lands, territories, waters and coastal sea and other 
resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or 
used, and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this 

"Though these traditions are accepted almost unanimously in theory, 
governments, corporations, and sadly, even religious institutions have far 
too consistently undermined or stolen the capacity for aboriginal peoples 
to survive," MacDonald said.

Protecting a reputation as well as the environment

The resolution was supported by a number of socially responsible and 
institutional investors. In a letter written to BP chief executive Lord 
Browne of Madingley, shareholders expressed concern that investment values 
could be negatively impacted from operating in protected and sensitive 
areas and need to be disclosed. "Failing to do so could place BP's 
reputation and brand image at significant risk," the letter stated. "While 
we commend BP for recognizing the value of integrating biodiversity 
conservation into future oil and gas development projects, we feel that an 
essential element of any biodiversity conservation strategy must be to 
refrain from operating in designated protected areas."

In its posted response on the Internet, BP recommended that shareholders 
vote against the resolution. "We will continue to develop and implement our 
policies and guidelines on operating in sensitive areas. We are sympathetic 
to elements of the supporting statement [of the resolution] and believe 
that there is room for continued debate and progress. We will continue to 
meet with many more interested parties and will benefit from the dialogue 
and mutual learning. However, in view of our already comprehensive 
approach, we believe that the report requested in the resolution is 
unnecessary." In the days leading up to the annual meeting, company 
officials posted to its website new and improved statements regarding 
support for biodiversity.

At its February meeting, the Episcopal Church's Executive Council voted in 
support of a resolution instructing the treasurer to vote in favor of all 
resolutions asking companies to report on the potential of environmental 
damage from oil drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic. A 
shareholder's resolution similar to the one offered by BP investors is now 
also pending before Conoco Phillips. BP stock was restricted from ECUSA 
financial holdings several years ago as a result of BP relations with 
subsidiaries or interests in operations in the Sudan.

Browne met with MacDonald after the meeting, joined by Athan Manuel, 
director of the Arctic Wilderness Campaign of U.S. PIRG's Education Fund, 
who co-presented the shareholder's resolution.

"The Episcopal Church has been a powerful ally in the legislative campaign 
to protect the coastal plain from oil and gas exploration," said Manuel. 
"The church has proven to be an equally powerful ally as a socially 
responsible investor."

While in London, MacDonald was received by Bishop Peter Selby of the 
Diocese of Worcester, a member of the Church of England's Ethical 
Investment Advisory group. MacDonald also met with representatives of BP 
and the Socially Responsible Investment unit at CCLA Investment Management 

--John Johnson is domestic policy analyst for the Episcopal Church's Office 
of Government Relations.

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