Stop Tar Sands going global!

Dear Oily Bankers,

The spring 2011 tar sands tour has come to an end. We are exhausted but still completely excited by the incredible turn-out, the brilliant media coverage and the amazing outcome of everyone’s efforts! We’re now having a bit of a holiday before gearing up to tackle the next challenge – stopping Tar Sands going global (boo!!!)

1. What a week!
2. Help stop Tar Sands going global
3. Do you want a Tar Sands speaker?

Love and sunshine,

Jess, Sue and Emily
UK Tar Sands Network

1. What a week!

So we have come to the end of an incredible week of Tar Sands resistance! We certainly made sure BP and RBS know that their involvement with the filthiest fuel on the planet will continue to be a blemish on their already mired reputations. In the midst of all the excitement we did manage to put together a report-back – take a peek for all the juicy details.

2. Help stop Tar Sands going global

A terrifying and little-known fact is that Canada is not the only country to have massive Tar Sands deposits. They are also found in abundance in Congo-Brazzaville, Venezuela, Jordan, Trinidad and Tobago and the US to name just a few, and the oil companies are starting to try and exploit them.

Right now, thousands of lives are under threat from French oil giant Total’s plans to mine Tar Sands in Melaky, Madagascar. In a few weeks time, Holly Rakotondralambo will be visiting the UK from Madagascar to talk about the campaign to stop this polluting industry and ask for our support and solidarity.

The impacts in Madagascar would be truly devastating. Over 120,000 people who live within the Bemolanga oil field will have their water supply disrupted and their land poisoned. Total is being financed using UK taxpayers’ money, through the bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland.

If you can, come along to one of these events organised by the World Development Movement and hear directly from Holly about the campaign to stop Tar Sands in one of the world’s poorest counties and greatest biodiversity hotspots, and how we in the UK can help.

  • 23 May – Boyd Orr Building, Glasgow University, with the Glasgow Centre for International Development, 6-8pm, free.

  • 24 May – Talk and Petropolis film screening.  Augustine United Church Edinburgh EH1 1EL, with Take One Action, 6-8pm, entry by donation.

  • 25 May – Talk and Petropolis film screening. Malet Suite, University of London Union WC1E 7HY, 6-8:30pm, entry by donation.

More details here:

3. Do you want a Tar Sands speaker?

Are you a member of a group who might be interested in having a meeting about the Tar Sands and how you can get involved in the campaign? If so, the UK Tar Sands Network can help. We can send a speaker along to your group, and also send you a pack of free materials, including films, stickers and Tar Sands briefings on BP, RBS, CETA and indigenous rights. If you would like a campaign pack or to book a speaker, please email [email protected]

First Nations protest Tar Sands investments at RBS AGM

Representatives from some of Canada’s First Nations today demanded in person that the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) stops financing the controversial tar sands industry in Alberta, Canada, at the bank’s AGM. The protest came as new research, published by a coalition of UK and North American NGOs, shows that since being bailed out with public money in 2008, RBS has raised £5.6 billion in corporate financing to companies involved in Alberta’s tar sands extraction and tar sands pipeline development, including BP and Enbridge.

The First Nations representatives took into the AGM a photo petition and motions from UK taxpayers angry that the bank is investing their money in tar sands extraction, and used the meeting to call on the board to cease financing tar sands companies. Many First Nations communities are fighting extensive tar sands extraction on their tribal lands in Alberta, as well as the proposed 1,170 kilometre long Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the British Columbian coast, which will pass through the territories of

One of the First Nations representatives attending the AGM was Jasmine Thomas from the Yinka Dene Alliance, which is actively resisting the RBS-financed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. RBS was the fourth bank warned by the Yinka Dene Alliance over the past two months for its involvement in raising funds for Enbridge and its failure to adopt ethical policies that respect the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples who may be impacted:

“RBS has provided finance to Enbridge, which wants to build its Northern Gateway tar sands pipelines through our territories, to carry oil through many of our critical salmon-bearing rivers. A spill will happen – Enbridge has over 60 pipeline spills each year. A single spill could destroy our way of life and our culture, so 80 First Nations in British Columbia have said NO to the pipeline. I’m here to warn RBS shareholders of the legal and environmental risks of financing such controversial tar sands companies, and to ask them to withdraw all corporate financing to Enbridge.”

Clayton Thomas-Muller, from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, representing the Indigenous Environmental Network, also attended the AGM. He said: “Banks in Canada and in the US have been put on notice for their dirty finance of the Canadian tar sands which is resulting in the destruction of First Nations Peoples’ way of life. The UK’s RBS, being a majority publicly-owned bank, should be under the greatest scrutiny for its involvement in financing the Canadian tar sands and more specifically the Enbridge corporation and its controversial proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline.”

As shareholders arrived for the AGM they were greeted by a troupe of ‘oily bankers’, already drunk on the black stuff and draped across RBS’s massive logo – who were in fact campaigners from the UK Tar Sands Network, Friends of the Earth Scotland, World Development Movement Scotland and People & Planet.

After the First Nations delegation – which also included Melina Laboucan-Massimo from the Lubicon Cree in Northern Alberta – had asked their questions, got extremely unsatisfactory responses, and other shareholders had vented their spleen at RBS’s lack of profits and enormous executive pay packets, the stormy AGM came to a close. The First Nations were invited into a meeting with RBS’s head of sustainability where they were able to have a more detailed discussion about their concerns face to face with Sandy Crombie, a member of the board.

View some of the media coverage here:

Independent – RBS faces AGM protest over tar sands cash

Guardian – RBS oil sands investments ‘not sound’

STV – RBS accused of being involved with ‘dirty finance’

Herald- Protesters demand halt to bank’s  tar sands financing

RBS in the Tar Sands – briefing

BP and RBS targetted by Tar Sands Tour

Dear AGM-stormers,

A lot has happened since our last newsletter: our First Nations crew (Clayton, Jasmine and Melina) have arrived, we’ve made new friends from various corners of the world, been dragged out of the Excel Centre, gained a load of media coverage and kept tar sands well and truly on BP’s agenda. And, best of all, we’ve been labelled ‘winners’ by the Financial Times! What a week!

But the fun continues, as we’ve just arrived in Edinburgh to give RBS a piece of our minds! A big thank you to everyone who has helped make the Tar Sands Tour so successful.

  1. Tar Sands Tour so far… BP pandemonium
  2. Now it’s RBS’s turn

Love from the Tar Sands Tour Team,

Emily, Jess, Sue, Melina, Jasmine, Clayton and Felix


1. Tar Sands Tour so far… BP pandemonium

Tuesday: “Calling BP to account”

An excellent start to an insane week, our launch event at Rich Mix saw an unusual alliance form between investors, First Nations representatives, fishermen and women from the Gulf of Mexico, NGOs and activists, all driven by a common anger with BP and passion to take action.

Thursday: BP AGM

BP’s AGM was, shall we say, eventful… There were protests, arrests and a global media feeding-frenzy. It all added up to one hell of a PR own goal for BP. Read the whole story and watch a hilarious video of the action we took that got ten of us kicked out of the AGM.

Friday: Transition Heathrow workshop

After pausing for a few hours to catch our breath, we headed over to visit the lovely folks at Transition Heathrow in the evening, for a tar sands workshop, a screening of the new film ‘Tipping Point’, and an inspiring and fruitful discussion about how we can link up in working towards positive alternatives to dirty oil.

Sunday: The Great BP-Sponsored Sleep-in

Returning to London’s heart and centre of art, we targeted the Tate Modern with Rising Tide’s Great BP-Sponsored Sleep-In. Spot Steve’s teddy in this film of the action, which our film crew (Felix from You and I Films) edited on the train on the way up to Scotland (above).

2. Now it’s RBS’s turn

Today, our friends at Rainforest Action Network have released some red-hot new research: since being bailed out by UK taxpayers in 2008, RBS has raised more than £5.6 billion for companies operating in the tar sands. A whopping £1.2 billion of that total was raised in the last six months, at a time when the UK is experiencing devastating public spending cuts to pay off the deficit caused by the bank bailout. This makes us hopping mad. If only there was a way for us to communicate that to RBS… 😉

Today: People’s AGM

This evening, we will join with our friends from WDM, Friends of the Earth Scotland, People & Planet, PLATFORM and SEAD to hold a ‘People’s AGM’ where we will pass all the motions that the real AGM will continue to ignore.

Tuesday: RBS AGM:

We will return to RBS’s HQ (verdant site of 2010’s Climate Camp) to have a presence both inside and outside the AGM. Inside, Jasmine Thomas will challenge RBS for its involvement in financing Enbridge, which is trying to build a pipeline right through her community. Outside, activists will engage with shareholders.

Follow us on twitter for the latest updates and photos of our shenanigans: @NoTarSands

BP Overwhelmed by Criticism at AGM

The BP board came under sustained fire from Indigenous people, Gulf Coast residents and major shareholders at its explosive AGM in London yesterday. Shareholders arrived to find a large colourful protest outside the Excel Centre, as fishermen and women affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill joined with Indigenous representatives critical of the company’s recent decision to enter into its first Tar Sands extraction project, to hold an impromptu press conference for the world’s media.

The group of fishermen and women from the US Gulf Coast were then, shockingly, barred from entering by BP, even though they had legitimate proxy votes. The company is clearly too scared to face its critics.

Diane Wilson, a shrimp farmer from the Texas Gulf coast who is already facing 800 days in jail for previous protests against BP, smeared oil-like molasses on her face to protest against being refused entry. She was promptly arrested and held for several hours. The other members of the delegation, Tracy Kuhns, Mike Roberts and Byron Encalade, said they were being treated ‘like criminals’ by BP, when in fact it’s the oil company that caused the spill that is destroying local communities’ lives, livelihoods and health.

Inside the turbulent meeting, a coalition of major US, UK and European shareholders holding 35 million shares explained their decision to vote against the company’s Annual Report, the remuneration package and the re-election of several board members and executives. Julie Tanner, from the Christian Brothers Investment Services, who had flown over from the US to be at the meeting, told the board that given the Deepwater Horizon disaster, there was too little information on safety and operational risk in the Annual Report for them to make informed decisions about their future investment in the company.

BP were then accused of failing to learn from their tragic mistakes by pushing ahead with another risky, expensive and environmentally destructive oil project: the Canadian Tar Sands. Clayton Thomas-Muller from the Indigenous Environmental Network read out to the board a statement from Fort McKay Cree First Nation community members who will be directly affected by BP’s ‘Sunrise’ tar sands extraction project:

“Fort McKay First Nation is situated in the heart of the oilsands.  You can go in any direction and within twenty minutes, you will find an oilsands plant. How does the Husky Sunrise project impact us?  Well to start with, there are several parcels of land dedicated to the use of trappers from the first nation.  Because the animals have disappeared, these traplines are no longer used for trapping.

These traplines have become islands of cultural identity.  We use them to escape the industrial activity and as a place to teach our children traditional ways.  We are a people whose very cultural identity is linked to the land.  The Husky Project has interfered with traplines in the area, reducing access for the local people and taking away the peace of the bush life.  High traffic volumes and industrial activity have taken away the peace and quiet and in some cases, taken the land itself.

SAGD projects are touted as ‘clean oil’ but in fact the sheer volumes of water used impacts the surrounding land, drying up the muskeg and reducing animal habitat.  We still get the air pollution and with it more sickness.”

He then asked BP how they were managing the rapidly changing legal landscape in Canada as more and more First Nations launch lawsuits agains the tar sands and opposition steadily increases.

Then Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a First Nations representative from the Lubicon Cree in Northern Alberta, challenged BP on its claims that the Sunrise project would be an environmentally responsible alternative to open pit mining because it will utilize ‘in situ’ methods of extraction.

“According to industry data and Environment Canada documents, producing the tar sands by in situ methods actually emits more greenhouse gas per barrel than surface mining does. In situ requires 4 times as much natural gas to produce a barrel of tar sands oil than open pit mining.

There are many ‘in situ’ injection sites on my First Nation’s territory. They contaminate the water, pollute the air, and dramatically disrupt local ecosystems by further fragmenting the boreal forest.

Given the reality of impending climate legislation, why is BP putting your shareholders’ investments at risk and falsely claiming that that In Situ extraction is an environmentally sound alternative to open pit mining?”

After she spoke, ten activists from the UK Tar Sands Network, wearing T-shirts that together spelt out “No Tar Sands” attempted to walk to the front of the hall and stand in front of the board, creating a human protest banner that remained for the rest of the meeting. However, BP’s burly security army jumped on them all and unceremoniously dragged them out.

Watch the film of the ejection here.

The board then listened uncomfortably as US writer and activist Antonia Juhasz described the devastating impact the Deepwater Horizon spill has had on Gulf Coast communities and berated BP for denying the Gulf Coast delegation access. She demanded a response to the failure of the corporation to provide for the safety of its deep water operations and, despite BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg’s attempts to silence her, read a statement from Keith Jones, whose son, Gordon Jones, was killed when the Deepwater Horizon exploded:

“Why was Gordon taken from those who loved him so? This was no act of God. This was not a blowout that was inevitable. No, BP, Transocean and Halliburton could have prevented this blowout and still harvested the riches that lay below. But to complete the well safely would have taken a little more time and a little more money, and you were just too greedy to wait. You had to make more money faster — and if that put those who were on the rig as risk, well, sometimes one has to take a few chances, right? After all, none of you were on that rig. You weren’t rolling the dice with the lives of your sons and daughters, were you?”

Diane Wilson, if she had been allowed into the meeting, had planned to present BP with the ethecon Foundation “Black Planet” award for environmental destruction. But given she had been arrested, Lydia Will from ethecon presented it in her place, demanding that either the Gulf Coast visitors be allowed in, or the Chairman come outside to accept it. He refused both options.

Tar sands and the oil disaster were not the only issues riling shareholders during the meeting, which dragged on for over four hours as investors vented their spleen and large numbers voted against the board.

Afterwards, the press coverage was almost universally damning of the way BP had handled the day, with pictures of an oil-covered Diane beamed across the world and the tar sands issue given prominent coverage.

Here’s a selection of our favourite press stories. Our most favourite comes from the Financial Times, which judges the winners and losers of the day. And the winners were… Tar Sands Campaigners!

Other media:

Press Association:




Daily Mail:

Tar Sands Tour is go!

Dear Tar Sands tourists,

Our big week (and a bit) has begun! Tomorrow, the Tar Sands Tour kicks off at Rich Mix with a huge public event all about BP, Tar Sands, Deepwater Horizon and how to hold the oil giant to account for its destructive activities across the world. We have an amazing set of speakers lined up, from First Nations directly impacted by the Tar Sands, to oyster fishers and shrimpers from the Gulf of Mexico whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the BP spill, to the leader of the West Papuan resistance, to major shareholders in BP, all of whom are not happy!

Then we’ll be going to the AGM itself on Thursday, to make our voices heard. Watch this space (and the media) for some major fireworks.

This week is also a week of action against BP sponsorship of the arts, involving some audacious and creative actions at some of our best-known cultural institutions.

Then on Sunday we’re heading up to Edinburgh to do that same again, this time targeting RBS for its dirty investments. WDM have an online photo petition for you that you can join in with to tell RBS to stay out of the tar sands.

Get all the details here:

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for up-to-the-minute news.

Hope to see you somewhere on the road!

Love not big oil,

Jess, Emily and Sue xxx

BP under fire at AGM for taking unacceptable risks.



Interview opportunity with community representatives from Alberta Tar Sands and Gulf of Mexico coast – see below for details.

Residents from opposite ends of North America are travelling to London for a showdown with BP. Representatives of First Nation communities affected by the massive Tar Sands project in northern Canada are working in partnership with fishermen and women whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed by BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the Gulf Coast. They will be joined inside the AGM on Thursday 14 April by UK campaigners and angry shareholders, many of whom are planning on voting against the board.[1]

This unprecedented coalition has come together following a year in which BP has been responsible for the largest marine oil spill in history.[2] Despite this, a few months later BP announced that it was heading into an equally if not more risky “unconventional oil” venture: its first Tar Sands extraction project.

Representatives of affected communities, campaigners and shareholders are therefore joining forces to deliver a simple message to BP at its London AGM next Thursday: stay away from unconventional oil, it’s just too risky. There will be a protest outside and around 30 people will enter the AGM to ask questions, deliver the message “No Tar Sands” in a very visual way, and present BP with the not-so-prestigious “International ethecon Black Planet Award” for environmental destruction. [3]

Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation fisherwoman from the Texas Gulf Coast who was recently arrested for protesting against BP and is facing a jail sentence for up to 800 days, will present the ethecon Black Planet award to BP in person, along with the Chairman of ethecon.[4] Diane will be joined by several other representatives from the Gulf Coast region. [5] She says:

“I am coming to the AGM to call BP to account for its actions in the Gulf – for the oil spill, the lies, the cover-ups, the skimping on safety, the deaths, the non-existent documents, the ‘swinging door’ with regulators. The massive nature of the oil catastrophe means it can’t be covered up, even by BP. It’s everywhere, from 5,000 feet down to miles upon miles across and then spread in the ocean’s currents. I am coming to articulate the anger of thousands of Gulf Coast residents whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed while the BP board continues to prosper.”

BP’s decision to enter into its first Tar Sands extraction project [6] will also be criticised by a group of Indigenous activists brought over by the Indigenous Environmental Network. Melina Laboucan-Massimo from the Lubicon Cree First Nation will speak from direct experience about what this kind of ‘in situ’ Tar Sands extraction really involves [7]:

“BP is touting its ‘in situ’ extraction project as an environmentally responsible alternative to surface mining, but it is nothing of the sort. There are many ‘in situ’ mines on my First Nation’s territory. They pollute the water and the air, dramatically disrupt local ecosystems, and emit more greenhouse gas per barrel than surface mining. They are operating on our native peoples’ land without consent and it’s important that BP shareholders understand the risks of legal action from First Nations. BP must do the sensible thing and leave tar sands in the ground.”

The community representatives will be joined by UK activists determined to hold this iconic British company to account for its dirty operations across the globe. Jess Worth from the UK Tar Sands Network said:

“Uncertainty in the Middle East and dwindling supplies of conventional oil elsewhere should be a signal to move into more sustainable forms of energy. Instead, BP is responding by charging head first into dangerous, expensive and highly polluting sources of unconventional and marginal oil, such as Tar Sands, deepwater drilling and the Arctic. Pollution from the Tar Sands is equivalent to a Gulf Coast oil spill every month. The Board has clearly lost the plot so we are going to the AGM to set them straight.”

The coalition[8] will gather together in advance of the AGM for a major public meeting, on Tuesday 12 April, 7pm at Rich Mix, 35 – 47 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA. All journalists are welcome.

To arrange an interview with any of the attendees:

UK media call Jess Worth on +447967758641 or email [email protected]

North American media call Clayton Thomas-Muller, Indigenous Environmental Network,

+11 613 789 5653

1.     BP shareholders are angry about a whole range of issues since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. See ‘BP to face tough crowd at meeting’, Guy Chazan, Wall Street Journal, April 6, See also an in-depth analysis of BP’s Annual Report:

2.     11 workers were killed and the ocean and local ecosystems were polluted with 4 to 5 million barrels of oil from BP’s controversial deepwater drilling operation in the Gulf of Mexico.

3.     Members of the ethecon Foundation will also be attending to present the award. Together with the positive Blue Planet Award, the negative Black Planet Award is bestowed every year by ethecon – Foundation Ethics & Economics, a German-based international foundation.   For more information on ethecon and its work on BP see, http://ethecon/download/Dossier_Black_Planet_Award_2010_English.pdf and

4.     Read a longer statement from Diane about the situation in the Gulf Coast and her arrests:

5.     Tracy Kuhns, a commercial shrimper from Louisiana and board member of the Association of Family Fishermen, and other fishermen and women are being brought over by the Gulf Coast Fund. Also attending will be Antonia Juhasz, prominent US author, activist and Director of the Energy Program at Global Exchange, who has just published ‘Black Tide: the devastating impact of the Gulf Oil Spill’ which tells the stories of communities and individuals whose lives have been destroyed by BP’s negligence.

6.     In December 2010, BP announced it was releasing $2.5 billion to move forward with the Sunrise Project – a partnership with Canada’s Husky Energy. For more information see

7.     Melina Laboucan-Massimo worked on a report that has just been released by Greenpeace Canada about the dangers of in situ mining: ‘Deep Trouble’,

8.     For more information about the members of the coalition, see: Indigenous Environmental Network, UK Tar Sands Network, ethecon, Rising Tide, Climate Rush, Greenpeace UK, PLATFORM, Gulf Coast Fund, Global Exchange, This is Ecocide, Trees Have Rights Too