Conoco pulls out of Arctic Refuge lobby group

The biggest oil company in Alaska, ConocoPhillips, has pulled out of Arctic Power, the lobbying group promoting drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The decision means the two largest oil companies operating on the North Slope–British Petroleum and Conoco–are no longer members of the lobby organization.

“This is a significant win for America’s Arctic,” said Athan Manuel, director of U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s (PIRG) Arctic Wilderness Campaign, “and we commend ConocoPhillips for listening to their shareholders and the American people and dropping out of Arctic Power.”

Manuel further stated: “It appears that ConocoPhillips and BP are more enlightened than the Bush administration when it comes to drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Hopefully, Congress will get the message and defeat attempts to allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge this year.”

Green Century Capital Management, representing Conoco shareholders, lauded the oil giant’s action. “As ConocoPhillips shareholders, we applaud our company’s decision to withdraw from Arctic Power,” said Michael Leone of Green Century. “ConocoPhillips clearly recognized that drilling in the Refuge would be risky business, and that participating in Arctic Power’s pro-drilling efforts was not ultimately in the company’s best interests.”

Shareholders and environmentalists, in the last two years, have pushed the company to face the risks related to drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge. A resolution by Green Century opposing drilling drew more than 9 percent of the shareholder vote last May.

At that time, a coalition of environmental groups and socially responsible shareholders urged Conoco to drop out of the lobby group at Conoco’s annual meeting.

British Petroleum dropped out of the group in November 2002 after a similar effort by the PIRG Arctic Wilderness Campaign, the World Wildlife Fund and Green Century. The campaign since 1998 has focused on four oil companies expressing interest in drilling in the Arctic Refuge. The opposition forces generated more than 65,000 e-mails, phone calls and letters to BP, Conoco, Exxon and Chevron.

Resolutions have been filed with ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil, asking each company to report on the risks of drilling in sensitive areas like the wildlife refuge. “We hope that these companies will follow ConocoPhillips’ lead in protecting shareholder value as well as the environment by withdrawing from Arctic Power,” Leone said.

Congress likely will debate the fate of the Arctic Refuge beginning in February or March. “We hope that ConocoPhillips’ decision to drop out of Arctic Power will demonstrate to members of Congress that even the oil companies aren’t interested in drilling in the Arctic Refuge,” said PIRG’s Manuel. “BP and ConocoPhillips recognize that drilling in the Arctic Refuge doesn’t make sense, and it looks like drilling there is not a priority for either company.” (

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