By Steve Horn, July 29, 2013. Source: DeSmog Blog
A must-read Los Angeles Times story by Neela Banerjee demonstrates that – once again – the Obama administration put the kibosh on a key Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) groundwater contamination, this time in Dimock, Pennsylvania.
Though EPA said Dimock’s water wasn’t contaminated by fracking in a 2012 election year desk statement, internal documents obtained by LA Times reporter Neela Banerjee show regional EPA staff members saying the exact opposite among friends.
“In an internal EPA PowerPoint presentation…staff members warned their superiors that several wells had been contaminated with methane and substances such as manganese and arsenic, most likely because of local natural gas production,” writes Banerjee.
“The presentation, based on data collected over 4 1/2 years at 11 wells around Dimock, concluded that ‘methane and other gases released during drilling (including air from the drilling) apparently cause significant damage to the water quality.’ The presentation also concluded that ‘methane is at significantly higher concentrations in the aquifers after gas drilling and perhaps as a result of fracking [hydraulic fracturing] and other gas well work,” Banerjee further explained.
By Steve Horn, July 16, 2013. Source: DeSmog Blog
A DeSmogBlog investigation reveals that Robert Bauer, former White House Counsel and President Barack Obama’s personal attorney, works at the corporate law firm Perkins Coie LLP, which does legal work for TransCanada’s South Central LNG Project, formerly known as Alaska Gas Pipeline Project.
Furthermore, Dan Sullivan, current Commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, and former Alaska Attorney General and former Assistant Secretary of State in the Bush Administration, is a former Perkins attorney.
These findings come in the immediate aftermath of a recent investigation revealing the contractor hired by Obama’s U.S. State Department to do the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the northern half of TransCanada’sKeystone XL tar sands export pipeline - Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) - lied on its June 2012 conflict-of interest filing. ERM Group checked the box on the form saying it had no current business ties to TransCanada.
By Steve Horn, July 10, 2013. Source: DeSmog Blog
The contractor the Obama U.S. State Department hired for the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) of the northern half of TransCanada’s Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands export pipeline overtly lied on its conflict-of-interest disclosure form that it signed and handed to State in June 2012.
A major research dossier unfurled today by Friends of the Earth-U.S. (FOE-U.S.) and The Checks & Balances Project (CBP) shows that Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) played “Pinocchio” in explaining its ties – or as they say, lack thereof – to Big Oil, tar sands and TransCanada in particular on its conflict-of-interest form.
The two groups dug deep and revealed State’s contractor ERM and its subsidiary Oasis Environmental both have ongoing contractual relationships with the Alaska Gas Project – now known as the South Central LNG Project – co-owned by TransCanada, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP. Further, ERM’s Socioeconomic Advisor Mark Jennings served as a “Consultant to ExxonMobil Development Company for the Alaska Pipeline Project, according to his now-scrubbed LinkedIn profile.
ERM’s own documents – FOE-U.S. and CBP further explain – also reveal the multinational firm has business ties with over a dozen companies active in the Alberta tar sands, including Exxon, Shell, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Total and Syncrude.
By Steve Horn, May 3, 2013. Source: DeSmog Blog
Double-dipping is a “no go” in the real world of eating chips and salsa with a circle of friends but an everyday reality in the world of lobbyists and PR professionals.
Enter double-dipper Anita Dunn, former White House Communications Director for President Barack Obama who now runs the firm SKDKnickerbocker (Squier Knapp Dunn), a firm that “brings unparalleled strategic communications experience to Fortune 500 companies, political groups and candidates, non-profits, and labor organizations.”
Dip one: TransCanada Corporation, which SKDK does public relations work for, as revealed in an Oct. 2012 New York Times investigation. TransCanada is the multinational corporation currently building the contentious southern half of theKeystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline, following the dictates of a March 2012 Obama Administration Executive Order. Within months, the fate of the border-crossing Alberta to Port Arthur, TX KXL export pipeline will also likely be decided by the U.S. State Department.
Dip two: Another SKDKnickerbocker client is the Association of American Railroads (AAR), the American Petroleum Institute trade association equivalent for the freight rail industry. Even without KXL – as covered previously on DeSmogBlog - tar sands crude can be moved to targeted markets via freight rail (coupled with pipeline capacity increases of other tubes and potential barging along Lake Superior).
By Steve Horn, February 11, 2013. Source: DeSmogBlog
New York could soon become the newest state in the union to allow hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the controversial technique used to enable shale oil and gas extraction. The green light from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo could transpire in as little as “a couple of weeks,” according to journalist and author Tom Wilber.
That timeline, of course, assumes things don’t take any crazy twists or turns.
Enter a press conference today in Albany, where seven groups, including Public Citizen, Food and Water Watch, Frack Action, United for Action, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, and Capital District Against Fracking, called for an Albany County District Attorney General investigation of the Cuomo Administration.
They are asking “whether Lawrence Schwartz, Secretary to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, has a conflict of interest between his stock investments and his involvement in the state’s decision on whether to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.” Continue reading
February 7, 2013. Source: Environmental Investigation Agency
Corruption in Mozambique aids illegal logging & timber smuggling to China
Weak forest governance and corruption in Mozambique are facilitating illegal logging and timber smuggling to supply China’s voracious demand, costing the fourth least developed country in the world tens of millions in lost taxes annually.
The new report First Class Connections: Log Smuggling, Illegal Logging and Corruption in Mozambique by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) exposes massive discrepancies in import/export data between Mozambique and China, indicating that half the timber flowing into China is illegal.
Compiling evidence from research and undercover operations in both countries, the report features detailed investigative case studies into some of the biggest companies engineering these crimes in Mozambique today, exposing both the smuggling techniques used and the political patronage and corruption that facilitate them.
EIA forests campaigner Chris Moye said: “Despite recent commendable efforts by the Mozambican Government to control the illegal trade in timber to China, our investigation uncovers how high-level politicians, in league with unscrupulous Chinese traders, continue to not only breach Mozambique’s export and forest laws but are now putting pressure on the sustainable yield of Mozambique’s forests”.
By Chris Lang, February 6, 2013. Source: redd-monitor
In 2006, an evaluation of Norwegian aid to Tanzania revealed that about US$30 million had been lost to corruption and mismanagement in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. The money was about half of the total that Norway spent on a Management of Natural Resources Programme. This week, Norwegian aid is in the headlines again over allegations of corruption in Tanzania.
Norway supported the MNRP from 1994 to 2006 to the tune of US$5 million a year. An independent evaluation in 2006 found that money was syphoned off through buying overpriced or non-existent goods and services. Procurement rules were not followed. More than half of Norway’s money went on workshops and “capacity building” exercises. Large amounts of money were lost to the “per diem culture” that surrounds aid-agency funded workshops in Africa.
Norway stopped aid to Tanzania. But after Tanzania returned a small part of the missing money, Norway turned the aid flow back on, committing US$100 million over five years for forest climate projects in Tanzania. Some of the money went to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism – the same Ministry that had syphoned off US$30 million from the MNRP budget.
This time around, Norway wanted Tanzanian-based NGO to implement the REDD projects. WWF were hired to work on a project titled “Strengthening Capacity of Environmental Civil Society Organizations”. Last year WWF was embroiled in a corruption scandal in Tanzania and recently returned just over US$120,000 to Norway, which is less than 10% of the US$1.3 million that was reported missing in an audit carried out by Ernst & Young.
By Chris Lang, January 23, 2012. Source: redd-monitor
In November 2011, PricewaterhouseCoopers warned that “The implementation of REDD+ in DRC will face numerous challenges because of the widespread nature of corruption in the country”. As in all other sectors, PwC added, corruption is “likely to be ever present”.
PwC’s report, “Implementing REDD+ in the Democratic Republic of Congo: How to manage the risk of corruption” (pdf file 3.7 MB), was commissioned by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).
“Risks of corruption will threaten the implementation of REDD+ in DRC in all of the phases,” PwC states in the report and notes that,
In fact, a number of politicians, including those in the government circles and Parliament, as well as high-ranking civil servants, are currently engaged in industrial and artisanal logging. Congolese armed forces are also involved in mining, and some of the mines that they operate are situated in forested areas. Investors are also increasingly interested in agribusiness in DRC. Oil companies are also vying for contracts to explore oil in forested zones. Many are these investors are also business associates of politicians on whose protection they rely. It is therefore likely that such individuals or groups of people would be keen to influence the design of the national REDD+ framework for their private gain.
By David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab, December 17 2012. Source: New York Times
SAN JUAN TEOTIHUACÁN, Mexico — Wal-Mart longed to build in Elda Pineda’s alfalfa field. It was an ideal location, just off this town’s bustling main entrance and barely a mile from its ancient pyramids, which draw tourists from around the world. With its usual precision, Wal-Mart calculated it would attract 250 customers an hour if only it could put a store in Mrs. Pineda’s field.
One major obstacle stood in Wal-Mart’s way.
After years of study, the town’s elected leaders had just approved a new zoning map. The leaders wanted to limit growth near the pyramids, and they considered the town’s main entrance too congested already. As a result, the 2003 zoning map prohibited commercial development on Mrs. Pineda’s field, seemingly dooming Wal-Mart’s hopes.
But 30 miles away in Mexico City, at the headquarters of Wal-Mart de Mexico, executives were not about to be thwarted by an unfavorable zoning decision. Instead, records and interviews show, they decided to undo the damage with one well-placed $52,000 bribe. Continue reading
Earlier this week, Transparency International Indonesia launched the organisation’s new report, “Keeping REDD+ Clean”, at their office in Jakarta. I was invited to give a presentation and this post is based on the presentation.
TI asked me to talk about developing a monitoring instrument to address the risks of corruption in REDD. I requested changing the title to “Corruption and REDD at the international level”. I did so for two reasons. First because I have no experience of setting up monitoring instruments for corruption in Indonesia or anywhere else and second, because it made more sense for me, as the only international speaker, to speak about international corruption and REDD. I also felt that this might help towards filling a gap in Transparency International’s “Keeping REDD+ clean” report, which states that,
The manual’s scope does not extend to corruption risks at the international level. Rather it is deliberately focused on processes that occur in country, to facilitate the participation of national and local groups in informing national policy, planning and project implementation.
But if national policy involves carbon trading, then it is essential to look at the risks of corruption internationally.
The presentation is in four parts. The first part gives a very brief introduction to corruption in the forest sector in Indonesia, a look at how the media reports on corruption in Indonesia and in the UK, and some thoughts about the history of aid to the forest sector. The second and third parts look at the stories that are most often reported about corruption, REDD and carbon trading internationally: from carbon cowboys to billions of euros worth of fraud in the EU Emissions Trading System. The fourth part is the most important part, taken from a 2009 paper written by Larry Lohmann of the UK-based Corner House: “Regulation as Corruption in the Carbon Offset Markets: Cowboys and Choirboys United”. Lohmann argues that the problems of carbon offset markets are not “carbon cowboys” or “bad apples” but the architecture of the markets themselves:
To continue to claim that carbon offset markets can be regulated is to legitimise continued corruption and to undermine popular struggles against it, as well as to harm the causes of climate action and climate justice.
To read the entire piece, go to REDD-Monitor
Filed under Biodiversity, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Commodification of Life, Commons, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, REDD, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests