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[ENS] Victory for Arctic drilling opponents at BP general
Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
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] 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,
"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
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
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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