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December 05, 2002
BP Abandons Group Lobbying for Oil Drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
    by William Baue

British oil company chooses to disengage from the Arctic Power lobby group and will only seek to drill in the ANWR if the people and the politicians endorse it.


BP (ticker: BP) has decided to drop out of Arctic Power, a group that has been lobbying for the U.S. government to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling. Environmentalists oppose drilling in the ANWR, believing it would disrupt the fragile eco- and biosphere.

"We had been fairly passive members of Artic Power for a number of years, and in fact in 2002, we had elected not to give them any kind of corporate donation or sponsorship," explained BP Director of External Affairs Jennifer Ruys. "We had one mid-level manager in Alaska who was on the board of Arctic Power. She was transferred to Houston. So for at least the past six months, we haven't even had any executive or manager participation on the Arctic Power board. So when we came to evaluate our annual memberships and groups we would participate in next year, we elected to take Arctic Power off the plate."

A coalition of social investors and environmentalists has been campaigning for the past three years to convince BP not to drill in the ANWR. The coalition, which currently consists of the Green Century Balanced Fund, Walden Asset Management, Trillium Asset Management, World Wildlife Fund, and U.S. PIRG, filed a shareowner resolution in 2000 urging BP not to drill in the ANWR. The resolution received 13 percent support from voting shareowners, a high mark for a first-time resolution. BP omitted a similar resolution last year on a technicality, and this year's resolution received 11 percent support. The coalition met with BP in July and asked the company to drop out of Arctic Power. The group followed up in August with a letter reiterating this request. BP told Arctic Power in late November that it would not renew its membership.

"Green Century has consistently informed BP that we would like to see the company withdraw from Arctic Power," Green Century's Michael Leone. "We do not think that it is a coincidence that BP has made its decision about Arctic Power at this time, following the three-year campaign of our coalition."

"To say that suddenly, today, we're succumbing to pressure is erroneous," Ms. Ruys told SocialFunds.com. "ANWR has never been a part of our Alaska investment portfolio because, frankly, it's not an option. Our position on ANWR has not changed, and it is this: it is up to the people and the United States government to decide whether there is drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain. And if, at some point, the government and the people of the United States decide that yes, indeed, they are going to allow companies to explore, then at that point, and only at that point, will we make the decision on whether we're going to pursue activities there, based on three criteria."

Those criteria are as follows: first, if oil development can occur in an environmentally sound manner; second, if such development compares favorably from a performance standpoint with BP's other prospects in Alaska; and third, if it competes with BP's other prospects around the globe.

Managers of the Green Century Balanced Fund hope that BP's action sets a precedent other oil companies will follow.

"BP's decision is an important step forward for efforts to permanently protect the Refuge from the threat of activities that would damage its fragile environment, and we hope that other companies will consider taking a similar step to ensure that one of America's last wild places remains protected for future generations," said Amy Perry, senior vice president of Green Century Capital Management, which is the investment adviser to the Green Century Balanced Fund (GCBLX).

The Green Century Balanced Fund was the primary filer for a resolution filed with Phillips Petroleum (which has since merged with Conoco) that was similar to the BP resolution. The resolution received 5 percent support from voting shareowners. Similar resolutions have been filed at other oil companies as well. It remains to be seen whether these resolutions will prompt action similar to BP's.

 

 
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