In midst of massive spill, oil industry fighting transparency and accountability

By mhart

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Washington, DC – In the midst of an unfolding environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil industry is supporting secrecy and business as usual on Capitol Hill by opposing a critical amendment to the financial reform bill. The bipartisan amendment would increase financial transparency in the oil, gas, and mining industries and provide valuable information to investors in the United States and to citizens in poor countries around the world, says international humanitarian organization Oxfam America. The amendment is likely to face a floor vote this week.

“The recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico reminds us of the potentially devastating impacts of oil, gas, and mining activities on the environment and nearby communities, especially in developing countries,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America. “More transparency and stability in this sector could help protect these communities by increasing the accountability of oil, gas, and mining companies and governments of host countries where secrecy has undermined development, democracy, and human rights for decades.” 

Amendment (4050) to the Restoring American Financial Stability Act (S. 3217) would require all oil, gas, and mining companies registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission to report how much they pay governments for access to their natural resources. The amendment, introduced by Senator Cardin (D-MD) and supported by Senators Lugar (R-IN), Durbin (D-IL), Schumer (D-NY), Feingold (D-WI), Merkley (D-OR), and Johnson (D-SD), is based on a bipartisan bill introduced last September by Cardin and Lugar, the Energy Security through Transparency Act (S.1700).

“As the oil industry fights a public relations battle in the fallout of the oil spill, they are also fighting a political battle on Capitol Hill to ensure that much of their financial transactions around the world remain secret. For decades, we have seen the dangerous effects of secrecy on poor people in developing countries, including government corruption, violent conflict, and poverty. Instability in these regions poses a long-term threat to national security, foreign policy, and American jobs,” said Offenheiser.

The American Petroleum Institute sent a letter opposing the amendment to Senate Banking Chairman Dodd, Ranking Member Shelby, and other Senate offices last week. Oxfam, along with partners in the Publish What You Pay Coalition, strongly support the Cardin amendment, which would help prevent the misuse of revenues in a multi-trillion dollar industry, inform investors, and level the playing field for US companies by creating a low-cost, uniform transparency method for more than 90 percent of internationally operating oil companies.

“If passed, this amendment would help unlock billions of dollars in resource-rich countries that are home to more than half of the world’s poorest people. We commend the Senators for this effort and  urge the Senate to stand with investors and poor people in resource-rich countries by approving this crucial amendment,” said Offenheiser.