Indigenous anti-pipeline leaders say they won the approval of Kinder Morgan’s stockholders during an annual meeting in Houston on Wednesday, after successfully pitching a sustainability plan.
Chief Judy Wilson, of the Neskonlith Indian Band (also known as te Secwepemc Nation), presented the sustainability proposal on behalf of the New York State Common Retirement fund, a major Kinder Morgan shareholder.
The resolution called on the Texas-based company to issue annual sustainability reports that would outline the company’s social, environmental and governance risks, including risks related to Indigenous rights.
The majority of shareholders approved the plan, a move that marks an “unprecedented shift in stockholder sentiment,” according to the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
“There’s a new reality. There’s a changed political climate, landscape in British Columbia, Canada, with the recognition of our inherent title and rights,” said Wilson, following the meeting.
“There’s a shift away from just mere consultation.”
Wilson had planned the “emergency” trip to the annual meeting with a clear message for Kinder Morgan: The pipeline will not get built without the full consent of Indigenous communities.
Wilson said Kinder Morgan has not adequately explained to its shareholders the “drastic risks of Indigenous opposition” to the pipeline.
“It threatens our culture, our spirituality, and our identity, our way of life. That means, fundamentally, more to us than anything that they could offer us,” she said. “This means that there will be further delay and risk and uncertainty for the overall project and we wanted to carry that message to the shareholders today.”
Lisa Lindsley, of advocacy group Sum of Us, said the sustainability proposal is non-binding, but now it’s up to shareholders to hold the company to account.
The fact that shareholders voted in favour of the resolutions is “a clear indication that the investment community is tired of ignoring climate change and denying that the rights of Indigenous peoples and the impact on the environment of business practices of companies like Kinder Morgan have an impact on shareholder value,” she said.
Wilson said Kinder Morgan did not adequately evaluate or disclose the risks to the project.
Regardless, 43 First Nations and Metis communities have signed deals with the company to expand the pipeline.
“Those federal reserve bands do not speak for the territory,” Wilson said. “We’re outside of the treaty processes that the government developed.”
Meanwhile, federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr maintains the Edmonton-to-Burnaby pipeline expansion project will be built, despite legal challenges and Indigenous opposition.
The federal government only has three weeks to convince Kinder Morgan that its pipeline will be built – or else the company will pull out by May 31.