March 24, 2021
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is urging the insurance industry in Washington state to work with Native Americans on adopting policies of consent on environmental projects that affect Tribal nations.
Kreidler said such policies would help strengthen the sovereign rights of tribes over environmentally sensitive projects that threaten their lands and traditional economies. The commissioner expressed support for a resolution the National Congress of American Indians passed in November 2020.
The resolution called on the insurance industry to adopt, as part of its underwriting policies, a requirement to “obtain and document the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of impacted Tribal Nations.” This requirement, referred to as FPIC, would allow tribes to give or withhold consent to a project that affects their lands, rights or sacred sites. FPIC enables tribes to negotiate the conditions under which a project will be designed, implemented, monitored and evaluated.
FPIC is considered the gold standard for Tribal consultation and is the central policy of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which former U.S. President Barack Obama endorsed in 2010.
“For too long, many Tribal nations have been given little to no consideration when industrial projects threaten native lands,” Kreidler said. “Native Americans have sovereign rights that all industries – including the insurance industry – should respect. Collaboration and cooperation, not conflict and confrontation, are needed now more than ever to achieve mutual goals.”
Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation in Washington state, said Kreidler’s support for FPIC is welcome.
“’Free, prior, and informed consent’ is the simple but powerful concept that sovereign Tribal nations have a right to say ‘yes or no’ to projects that impact them. Commissioner Kreidler is being a civil rights pioneer by advocating for insurance companies to comply with that standard,” Sharp said.
Sharp is also the nationally elected president of the National Congress of American Indians, the nonprofit organization that represents more than 500 Tribal nations across the United States.
“With his bold and courageous action today, Commissioner Kreidler is making it harder for corporations to obtain the necessary insurance coverage for industrial projects that steal Indigenous rights and poison Tribal lands,” Sharp said. “The best known example of a situation that ‘free, prior, and informed consent’ as an enforceable policy would stop is an unwanted project like the Dakota Access Pipeline, which the Standing Rock Sioux so eloquently and effectively opposed for years.”
Under state law, Kreidler has no authority to determine what risks an insurer may underwrite. But he said he would support a legislative effort to grant such power.
Kreidler said his support for FPIC aligns with his longtime work on climate concerns and their relationship to the insurance industry and Native Americans. In that work, he has:
- Chaired the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) Climate Change Working Group for over a decade. He is now a member of the new Climate Risk and Resilience Working Group.
- Joined the UNEP’s Sustainable Insurance Forum (SIF), a network of insurance supervisors and regulators working together to strengthen their response to relevant sustainability challenges.
- Developed recommendations for a Disaster Resiliency Office in state government.
- Joined the Paris Pledge for Action to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius.
- Been named in June 2020 by Insurance ERM as an insurance industry leader on climate change.
Find more information about climate change and your insurance on Kreidler's website.