STATEMENT: CAP’s Matt Lee-Ashley on Congress’ Vote to Enable Corruption in the Oil Industry and Allow Coal Mine Waste to Destroy Streams
Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Senate today is expected to vote on Congressional Review Act resolutions that would overturn the stream protection rule, which protects streams and drinking water supplies from being contaminated with coal mine waste, and a rule that seeks to reduce corruption and bribery in oil operations around the world. In advance of the vote, Matt Lee-Ashley, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:
With these two votes, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is making clear that, for the right price, he will sell out any American pollution, corruption, or public health protection to the oil, gas, and coal industries. You will not find a single American whose drinking water has been contaminated by coal mine waste who wants more toxic pollution dumped into streams. And the only people cheering Congress’ attempt to enable bribery and corruption in the oil industry are sitting in the board rooms of multinational oil companies and the palaces of foreign autocrats. These votes mark the start of what CAP expects to be an unprecedented sell-out of basic American environmental protections to billionaires, lobbyists, and special interests.
The rule to end corruption in oil operations
- Finalized by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, in June 2016, the rule requires companies that “engage in the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals”—both domestic and foreign—and their subsidiaries to report payments to foreign governments.
- The American Petroleum Institute and ExxonMobil have fought the SEC anti-corruption rule from the outset. ExxonMobil has been investigated on more than one occasion for dubious financial payments to help secure privileged access to oil reserves in foreign countries, as have Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron.
- Rolling back this rule would be a major step back in the SEC’s efforts to improve transparency and accountability in extractive industries around the world.
The stream protection rule
- The U.S. Department of the Interior’s stream protection rule creates important protections for communities that are downstream of coal mining operations and whose drinking water is at risk from toxic pollutants. Without the stream protection rule, we could see the destruction of about 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forest over the next two decades.
- In Appalachia, mountaintop removal mining has been responsible for burying 2,000 miles of streams and 2.5 million acres of the area’s forests. A 2008 peer-reviewed study found that 93 percent of streams downstream from surface mining operations were impaired based on an assessment of aquatic life. Mountaintop removal mining has also been linked to cancer, birth defects, and other serious health problems among residents of communities living near these sites.
- According to a Center for American Progress analysis, the 27 legislators that have sponsored and co-sponsored the bill to revoke the stream protection rule have been given nearly half a million dollars from mining interests in 2016 alone.
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