BP Amoco Shareholders Force Vote on Arctic Oil Drilling

LONDON, UK, January 26, 2000 (ENS) - A group of BP Amoco shareholders filed a resolution in London Tuesday that forces the giant energy company to put its Arctic oil expansion plans to a shareholders vote. The shareholder group cited increasing environmental problems stemming from oil exploration and transport as well as global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

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Costumed Greenpeacers deliver shareholder resolution to the BP Amoco headquarters in London. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace/Robinson)
The resolution, to be voted on at the company’s annual general meeting on April 13, calls for BP Amoco to cancel its Northstar project in the Arctic Ocean and stop lobbying to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

The resolution calls for the investment dollars freed from the cancellation of Northstar to be reinvested to pursue solar energy market opportunities.

The shareholder group SANE BP and the U.S. socially responsible investment firm Trillium Asset Management Corporation of Boston filed the resolution. SANE BP includes Greenpeace, the US Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) and socially responsible investors in the United States and Britain. Altogether SANE BP and Trillium hold 120,000 shares.

Simon Billenness, a senior analyst with Trillium Asset Management Corporation in Boston said, "As U.S. investors we support BP Amoco’s aim to play a leading role in supplying the world’s energy needs without damaging the environment. Unfortunately, we have yet to see any real signs of BP Amoco actually acting on this green vision. With this resolution, shareholders in the US and Europe have a chance to tell the company to put policy into practice. They can choose between funding dirty arctic oil or clean and green solar energy."

Trillium Asset Management Corporation of Boston manages over $600 million in client assets. It is the oldest and largest independent investment firm in North America that specializes solely in socially responsible investment.

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Sir John Browne (Photo courtesy BP Amoco)
BP Amoco’s CEO, Sir John Browne has made widely publicized statements supporting action on climate change and reducing use of fossil fuels. "Despite these public statements BP Amoco continues to pursue risky oil exploration in the pristine and vulnerable Arctic Ocean and Wildlife Refuge. It doesn’t add up so we are giving investors a voice and a choice," said Iain MacGill, a senior analyst with the Greenpeace climate campaign.

The shareholder resolution asks that BP Amoco move investment capital freed up by canceling the Northstar project to their solar subsidiary, BP Solarex. A multi-disciplinary study chaired by a BP Solar technical expert, and a recent KPMG market analysis commissioned by Greenpeace both conclude that building a large-scale solar photovoltaics factory could reduce the cost of solar power by 75 percent or more. This would make solar power cost competitive for domestic consumers who currently receive electricity produced by burning fossil fuels.

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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Photo courtesy Arctic National Wildlife Refuge)
BP Amoco estimates that recoverable oil reserves from the Northstar project amount to 145 million barrels. Northstar facilities are designed to produce up to 65,000 barrels of oil a day.

The BP Amoco Northstar production island will be built on Seal Island, a man-made gravel island six miles offshore of Pt. Storkensen, in water 39 feet deep in Stefanson Sound. Seal Island was constructed and used for exploratory drilling in the 1980s. The island will support oil production wells, as well as processing facilities to prepare the oil for shipping to the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline via a sub-sea pipeline to shore and an above ground pipeline to Pump Station 1.

For its part BP Amoco says numerous environmentally sensitive design features are included in the Northstar plan. Island and pipeline construction has been timed for winter so that it will not coincide or interfere with the bowhead whale migration and Ińupiat subsistence whale hunt.

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Drawing of planned Northstar Seal Island facility (Image courtesy BP Amoco)
The island will be contained by a sheet pile wall and surrounded by armoured slopes and a sub-sea gravel berm to protect the facility from wave action and ice floes. Pipeline design includes corrosion and leak-detection systems.

The environmental groups say Northstar is the first ever offshore oil project in the Arctic Ocean using untested sub-seabed pipelines in waters that ice up for ten months of the year. The company says that while the buried offshore portions of the pipelines will be the first in the Alaskan Arctic, their design is based on proven technology. The pipelines will be buried well below ice scouring depths, as determined by both BP and the U.S. Geological Survey, the company says.

All island wastes will be disposed of through an EPA-approved injection well, and under normal operations, there will not be marine discharges from the island. Clean gas-burning power generators and turbines meeting national standards will be used, the company says.

For spill prevention, the company says, tanks and piping for Northstar have been designed with state-of-the-art spill prevention features and will be inspected regularly. BP has developed a state-of-the-art oil discharge prevention and contingency plan for Northstar, in concert with Alaska Clean Seas, the clean-up co-operative for the North Slope, and the Alaska Department of Environment Conservation.

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Diagram showing BP Amoco's planned Northstar oil development (Diagram courtesy BP Amoco)
For wildlife protection, the company says the onshore pipeline sections will be elevated to a minimum five feet to facilitate passage of caribou and other wildlife and will be built in winter when little wildlife is present.

The environmentally concerned BP shareholders pointed out in a statement today that the U.S. government estimates up to a one in four chance of a major oil spill from the project, with serious environmental impacts on native peoples and marine wildlife including polar bears and bowhead whales.

But the primary concern of the dissident shareholders is the production of more fossil fuels instead of investment in solar and other renewable energies. "The Western arctic is on the frontline of climate change, the groups said today, "warming three to five times faster than the planet as a whole. Sea ice has thinned by some 40 percent over the last four decades, threatening arctic species including polar bears and walrus," they said today.

BP Amoco also threatens the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of America’s last unspoiled places and the only conservation area in the USA that provides a complete range of Arctic and sub-Arctic ecosystems, the shareholders' group warned. "Caribou, muskoxen, wolves, polar, brown and black bears, and hundreds of thousands of migratory birds rely on the wilderness habitat that the Refuge provides. The Gwich’in, which means ‘people of the caribou’ have lived in and around the Refuge for thousands of years. Their subsistence culture depends on the caribou herd."

"BP Amoco is currently lobbying to overthrow the protected status of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and open it up to oil drilling. The refuge is a treasure and it is time to expand support for its continued preservation from the streets into the boardroom. We urge all shareholders to join us," said Athan Manuel, director of the PIRG Save the Arctic Wilderness campaign.