Environmentalists to press BP over Alaskan drilling plan

Click to follow
The Independent Online

BP will face renewed pressure this week from environmental campaigners to prove its credentials as a progressive energy company and pull out of a plan to drill in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The oil giant's annual general meeting on Thursday, which takes place in London, will debate a special resolution on its environmental policy filed by 100 individual and institutional shareholders.

The resolution calls on BP to prepare a report disclosing how it "analyses and takes steps to control significant risks to shareholder value from operating in environmentally or culturally sensitive areas".

The move, led by US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), is clearly aimed at the Arctic refuge, an issue described by the campaigning group as "the number one environmental issue" in America. BP is among the oil companies that want to drill for oil in the 19-million-acre refuge, the last great pristine wilderness in the US.

The opening up of the area to the oil companies was a key plank of President George Bush's energy policy and Congress has approved development on the refuge's coastal plain. The Senate will debate the issue this week.

Athan Manuel, director of PIRG, said: "This is a fragile one-of-a-kind wildlife refuge. And there's not a whole lot of oil down there. To go ahead with this for a short-term gain would not be in BP's interests."

BP has rebranded itself with an eco-friendly image, a green and white sunburst logo, and the slogan "Beyond Petroleum". In 1997, Lord Browne of Madingley, the company's chief executive, broke ranks with the oil industry and stated his concern over global warming.

Mr Manuel said this commitment to the environment was now being seen as "window dressing". He said the company must recognise that there were certain places that should be "off-limits" to oil exploration.

BP already has about 25 per cent of Alaska's energy extraction industry. The Arctic refuge is home to vast herds of caribou, polar bears, 160 species of birds and the Gwich'in native tribe, who have lived in the area for thousands of years.

A spokesman for BP said the company recommended voting against the special resolution.

He said BP was interested in prospects in the refuge but added that social and environmental factors would be taken into account.