WHAT WE’RE TRACKING
Belize Joins France and Costa Rica in Banning New Oil and Gas Exploration. Three countries now have policies in place to stop the expansion of oil and gas extraction. In early January, Belize banned new oil exploration off its coast, constraining expansion of an industry that accounts for one quarter of the country’s exports (Quartz). In December, France went a step further, passing a law that bans new exploration licenses and ends oil and gas extraction by 2040 (The Guardian). Costa Rica was the first country to ban oil exploration and extraction in 2011.
New York City Sues Big Oil, Plans Divestment. More to Follow. The world’s financial capital is suing BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell for damages related to the growing costs of climate change, while announcing plans to divest New York City pension funds from fossil fuel investments worth USD 5 billion (Bloomberg). Oil companies continue to “double down on the production of massive amounts of oil and natural gas … despite having known for decades that this conduct was substantially certain to cause grave harm,” the complaint reads. Los Angeles officials are now weighing similar action (LA Times), which would join suits filed by eight other California jurisdictions. If this legal tactic takes hold, it could pose significant financial risk to the industry. Read the NYC complaint here.
The Financial Pullout from Oil and Gas Has Begun. Before NYC’s move to divest, the world’s largest public finance institution (The World Bank), the largest sovereign wealth fund (Norway’s), and one of the largest insurers (AXA) announced plans to scale back from or ditch oil and gas holdings. AXA is divesting from 25 tar sands companies and will no longer insure three related oil pipelines in the U.S., stating, “The pipelines will also be stranded assets at some point, so we don’t want to invest” (The Guardian). The Wall Street Journal reports that this trend mirrors early investor movement against the coal industry.
Delays to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline Are on Their Way. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau approved Kinder Morgan’s plan to build the world’s largest tar sands pipeline through unceded First Nations Territory. But climate and indigenous justice campaigners are fighting back. Opposition to the project includes more than 150 First Nations and U.S. Tribes, the Province of British Columbia, 22 municipalities, and more than 20,000 people who have pledged to do “whatever it takes” to stop it. Kinder Morgan just delayed its in-service date (again) to Dec. 2020, and has said each month’s delay costs CAD 90 million in revenue. A federal court could send the project back to Trudeau as early as April for failure to adequately consult with First Nations. Campaigners aim to draw a line against future expansion of the tar sands, pushing for a managed decline and cleanup of Alberta’s poisoned landscape.
Mixed Signals out of Norway, But Lofoten Protected for Now. The seas off of Lofoten, along with neighboring Vesterålen and Senja Islands, are protected from oil exploration through 2021, as part of the deal struck to form a new coalition government (Financial Times). This is a victory for activists who have fought to keep the Arctic region off limits for years. But the same week, the Norwegian government announced a “record” 75 new oil exploration licenses in other areas of the North, Norwegian, and Barents Seas (Reuters). The “battle for Norway’s soul” – oil producer versus self-avowed climate leader – continues.
Statoil Moves into Argentina’s Vaca Muerta. Norway’s Statoil is the latest oil major to claim a stake in Vaca Muerta, finalizing a joint exploration deal with the Argentine company YPF (Platts). Vaca Muerta, one of the world’s largest primarily undeveloped shale plays, could be a proving ground for the viability of large-scale fracking outside of North America (Bloomberg). Civil society groups like Observatorio Petrolero Sur are ramping up efforts to stop the mega-project, exposing the associated human rights and environmental abuses.
Dutch Government Pushes Faster Phaseout of Major Gas Field. The Dutch government is telling corporations in the Netherlands to phase out reliance on one of Europe’s largest gas fields – the Groningen field operated by Shell and ExxonMobil – by 2022 in the wake of another damaging earthquake (The Guardian). Thousands of local residents have protested ongoing gas extraction over the past year.
Exxon Deal in Ghana May Violate Transparency Law. The Ghanaian government is under pressure to disclose the terms of a deal signed in January that gives ExxonMobil rights to develop a new deepwater oil field (Ghana Business News). A member of the country’s Public Interest & Accountability Committee says the people of Ghana “deserve to know what has been negotiated in their name” and that the government failed to follow a law passed in 2016 that set new standards for competitive bidding and transparency.
Condensate Spill on a Scale ‘Never Seen’ Before. The deadly collision of an Iranian oil tanker and Chinese freight ship in the East China Sea could lead to ecological impacts of an unknown kind and scale (The Atlantic). The tanker was carrying around one million barrels of condensate, which is much lighter and more flammable than crude oil. The world has never seen a condensate spill of this magnitude and its effects could linger for decades (CNN).
G20 Public Finance Backs Mozambique LNG Mega-Project. In December, the Italian firm Eni closed a deal to develop Mozambique’s first offshore LNG project. The deal relies on USD 8 billion of financing, including public finance from G20 countries via the export credit agencies of Korea, Italy, China, and France (African Law & Business). Mozambique is on the front lines of gas industry expansion in Africa. Communities and organizations have already been pushing back against the rush, which includes projects led by Eni, ExxonMobil, and Anadarko (Bloomberg).