Center for International Environmental Law
Center for International Environmental Law
News Article | October 24, 2016
By calling on Oklahomans to pray for oil, Governor Mary Fallin has stretched the limits of my patience and perhaps a little bit of my better judgment. Governor Fallin would have us all believe that it’s been a really tough year for the oil industry. In fact, it’s been so bad that she sat herself down and drew up a pretty state proclamation mandating a day asking people to “seek His wisdom and ask for protection” for Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry. Unphased by the incredible ignorance of this clearly unconstitutional fusion of church and state matters, Fallin responded to the initial public backlash by amending her proclamation to include all faiths, not just Christians, as the original version mandated. Her reply? “I think prayer is always a good thing, for anyone.” I have no doubt about the truth of that statement. Certainly, prayer is good for anyone. However, I also agree with Bruce Prescott, a retired Norman, Oklahoma minister who said recently, “it’s not the governor’s responsibility to call anyone to prayer.” Prescott is particularly well-known in Oklahoma as the man who successfully sued to have a Ten Commandments monument removed from the Oklahoma Capitol grounds in 2015. Referring to the Oilfield Day of Prayer Proclamation, Prescott said, “That’s a minister’s responsibility.” Prescott added, “Another thing that’s an irritant on that one — there are a lot of things that could be prayed about in this state, and the oil field is not at the top of that list.” How does one even begin to pray for oil? If we take Fallin seriously (sort of), we should “ask for protection” — Is the protection for oil? or from oil? Hmmm, let’s follow Fallin’s advice and “seek His wisdom.” Okay… Dear Friends, Let us pray… “Dear God: Is oil a blessing or a curse?” Ok, so we didn’t get a really quick answer. This is, after all, a rather murky subject. Like all impatient seekers of God’s wisdom, I turned to Google for some more guidance, asking what God says about oil. I learned that, in the Jewish and Christian Old Testament, the most common word for “oil” is the Hebrew word shemen, occurring 192 times, and “in the large majority of those cases it refers to ‘olive oil’.” In the Christian New Testament, the Greek word corresponding to the Hebrew shemen, or “oil,” is elaion, occurring “eleven times and refers exclusively to ‘olive oil’.” Islam’s Holy Qur’an also confirms that the use of the word zayt for “oil” refers to “olive oil”. Fallin, on the other hand, is clearly referring to “petroleum,” that “naturally occurring, yellow-to-black liquid found in geological formations beneath the Earth’s surface, which is commonly refined into various types of fuels.” Within the span of a mere 150 years, oil, more formally known as petroleum, has insidiously infiltrated every aspect of human civilization. It is toxic to nearly all forms of life on Earth and yet we are now dependent upon it as an essential component of nearly all forms of economic livelihood. Transportation, heating, and the whole, pervasive plastics industry shoulder the bigger burdens of guilt for the terrible environmental impacts that petroleum is causing on Earth. Scientists and governmental bodies all over the world are now certain that human-related burning of fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum products are responsible for significant climate changes that have led to global warming. There are a wide variety of dangers to health and life stemming from petroleum products, none of which we should be asked to pray for, and a few of which include: • Birth Defects and Cancer – Crude oil and petroleum distillates are highly toxic and have been proven to be both carcinogenic and related to birth defects. • Air Pollution – Compounds such as carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide, methanol, and fine particulates of soot enter the air when fossil fuels such as oil and petroleum products are burned. These compounds cause lung and heart diseases, as well as trap the heat in Earth’s atmosphere, causing extreme climate changes from global warming. Equally problematic are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), emitted from petroleum products, like benzene and other vapors. Benzene is extremely toxic and is known to cause cancer and DNA damage. VOCs from petroleum products are dangerously explosive and can cause severe respiratory troubles if they are inhaled. • Acid Rain – Burning petroleum generates high temperatures in the air, heating nitrogen gas and generating nitrous oxides. Together with sulfur dioxide from sulfur in the oil, nitrous oxides combine with hydrogen in the atmosphere, resulting in acid rain. Acid rain is responsible for killing trees, acidifying bodies of water, killing fish and coral reefs in those bodies, and contributes to faster corrosion of machinery, bridges, and important historic monuments. • Oil Spills – Another lethal form of pollution, oil spills negatively impact both land and water, as well as all lifeforms present in the area of the spill. Cleanup and recovery of an oil spill can be incredibly difficult, depending on a wide variety of factors, such as air and/or water temperatures, type of oil, type of terrain, shoreline, or body of water affected. Larger spills can take many years to fully recover from, such as the terrible Deep Water Horizon spill of 2010. As a major producer of oil and natural gas, Oklahoma is no stranger to oil spills, either. In fact, 3,793 oil spills were reported in Oklahoma between 2009-2012, according to StateImpact and EnergyWire. More spills were reported in Oklahoma than even in Texas, the leading oil and gas producer in the US. Although North Dakota topped the list, EnergyWire points out that companies in that state have to report every spill of one barrel of oil or more. In Texas, spills of 5 barrels or more must be reported, and in Oklahoma, only spills over ten barrels are required to be reported. So many aspects of Fallin’s plea for folks to pray for oil are so farcical it’s downright flabbergasting. Asking people to pray for more global warming is spectacularly stupid. Asking people to believe there’s no such thing as climate change is not only dumbfounding, it’s a farce that even Exxon is no longer subscribing to. Revealed recently in the Guardian, as early as 45 years ago, the oil industry knew that climate change was coming and that they were primarily responsible. In 1968, the Stanford Research Institute presented a report to the American Petroleum Institute (API) warning that CO2 released from burning fossil fuels could lead to “worldwide environmental changes.” The 1968 Stanford report, republished by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), states, “Significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000 and these could bring about climatic change.” The report continues, “If the Earth’s temperature increases significantly, a number of events might be expected to occur including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, a rise in sea levels, warming of the oceans and an increase in photosynthesis.” “It is clear,” the report concludes damningly, “that we are unsure as to what our long-lived pollutants are doing to our environment; however, there seems to be no doubt that the potential damage to our environment could be severe.“ Launching a “well-oiled” (sorry ;^p) propaganda campaign over the following decades, the science of climate change and global warming has been constantly under attack in the mainstream media. As early as 1981, ExxonMobil, the largest oil company in the world knew about climate change and spent millions to promote mainstream climate denial. The Guardian reports, “Exxon had a dedicated in-house team that established the connection between fossil fuels and climate change, but the company still spent years refusing to acknowledge the issue and funding climate denial activities.” Although Gov. Mary Fallin doesn’t seem to have gotten that tweet, Exxon now accepts climate science, and is no longer actively promoting denial of fossil fuel’s negative environmental impacts. However, with nearly half a million dollars in contributions from the energy and natural resources industry recorded in Gov. Fallin’s campaign finances, it comes as no surprise that she’s still denying climate change. An active antagonist in Donald Trump’s camp of climate ignoramuses, Fallin explains Oklahoma’s uptick in severe droughts as “just nature itself and the patterns that flow.” Hailing infamous climate denier Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) as a “voice of logic on climate change,” Fallin has likewise sided with Ohio’s Bill Johnson against the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Fallin has even signed an executive order which states that Oklahoma will refuse to comply with the EPA’s rules for carbon reduction. That is, if Alabama’s State Prayer Request to block the EPA carbon rules goes unanswered… Finally, manipulating people to pray for the rich is deplorable and downright disgusting. Crying big crocodile tears, Gov. Mary Fallin would have us all believe that the great state of Oklahoma is going bankrupt due to the misfortunate downturn in oil prices. “There are many people suffering right now who have lost their jobs in the energy sector,” grieves Gov. Fallin, “…there are a lot of families who have been hurt, and I think prayer is always a good thing, for anyone.” This is the pathetic “pious” pandering of a pathological liar. The Oklahoma State Chamber Research Foundation (SCRF) just last month published its report, “Economic Impact of the Oil & Gas Industry on Oklahoma.” The headline states, “Oklahoma Energy is driving our state forward!” Stating the true situation, SCRF lists the following highlights of Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry contributions to the state’s economy: • State crude production reached 157.8 million barrels in 2015, a 157% increase from 2005 • State natural gas output is up by 60% since 2003, to 2.5 trillion cubic feet in 2015 • Oklahoma now ranks fifth among the states in oil production and third in natural gas production • Over the past 10 years, the state produced $15.4 billion annually in crude oil and natural gas • Oklahoma is the second largest oil and gas hub in the U.S., trailing only Texas • Oklahoma ranks as the 3rd most attractive oil and gas market among 126 markets worldwide • Oil and gas activity accounts for more than half the fixed investment ($20.3 billion) in Oklahoma • The state exported both crude oil and natural gas valued at $7.1 billion in 2015 • In 2015, the oil and gas industry employed 53,500 Oklahomans who earned $5.6 billion • 95,000 Oklahomans earned $10 billion in self-employment income from oil and gas activity • In total, nearly 150,000 Oklahomans are either wage and salary workers or self-employed in the oil and gas sector • Household earnings ($15.6 billion) from the oil and gas sector total 13.2% of total state earnings • Average wages in the oil and gas sector ($104,000) are more than double the state average ($44,178) Framing the state-mandated day of prayer for Oklahoma’s oilfields as a religious plea for God’s mercy and protection for suffering families is a hypocritical political ploy to cover budgetary mismanagement. Former Oklahoma Governor David Walters addressed this hypocrisy in April 2016, stating in the OK Observer that “It’s Not an Oil and Gas Crisis.” Commenting on the official report that Oklahoma was facing a $1.3 billion shortfall in public funding, Walters set the story straight. “Republican officials blame the shortfall on the cyclical nature of the oil industry,” stated Walters, “but a review of the numbers says that simply is not true.” He explained, “The budget shortfall has four components: $500 million in one-time funds, $325 million less in individual income tax collections, $229 million reduction in sales tax collections, and a $224 million reduction in gross production taxes. Oil revenue can only account for about 30% of the $1.3 billion shortfall. Responsible budget action could have prevented even that.” “The greater negative impact on income tax collections is the relentless attacks waged by state officials against jobs in healthcare, education, and government services, which contributes twice that of oil and gas to the Oklahoma economy,” Walters stated. “The only pure oil- and gas-related shortfall in the budget,” continued Walters, “involves the $224 million decline in gross production taxes. To be fair, however, in 2010, the Legislature cut the gross production tax rate from 7% to 2%. They did this during the $100 per barrel oil period when they could have used the revenue to shore up funds in preparation for the next cyclical downturn.” “Bottom Line: 70% of the $1.3 billion shortfall has nothing to do with oil and gas price declines.” Prophetically responding to October’s day of prayer six months earlier in April, former Governor David Walters issued his own prayer request: Amen, Brother David, now that’s something I can pray for! — Oklahomans and all US citizens alike need to appreciate that our elections have consequences! Buy a cool T-shirt or mug in the CleanTechnica store! Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech daily newsletter or weekly newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.
News Article | April 15, 2016
Oil Industry officials knew fossil fuels were capable of producing dramatic climate change during the 1960's, according to the Center for International Environmental Law. A new report claims some people in the industry even joked with one another about their ability to melt polar ice caps. According to the group, fossil fuels executives have been working since the 1940's in an effort to spin the propaganda narrative over the environmental consequences of their industry. The role of fossil fuels in driving up concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide has been discussed by scientists since the end of the 19th century. During the first half of the 20th Century, most researchers believed greenhouse gases would largely be absorbed by oceans around the globe. "In 1957, a landmark paper by Roger Revelle and Hans Suess of the Scripps Institute upturned that conventional wisdom, demonstrating that far more CO2 would remain in the atmosphere than previously assumed, potentially accelerating the impact of global climate change," The Center for International Environmental Law stated on its website. Air pollution in the form of smog over Los Angeles in the 1940's led to the establishment of the Smoke and Fumes Committee. The express goal of this group, made up of representatives of the nation's largest oil companies, was to present environmental regulations as costly and unwarranted. That group continued, under various names, for several years after their formation. By 1958, the re-branded committee was sponsoring the reports diminishing the role of fossil fuels in rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Stanford Research Institute scientists released a report to the American Petroleum Institute in 1968, highlighting the potential dangers of fossil fuels to the environment. The team put out a stark warning that rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would lead to warmer oceans, rising sea levels and thinning ice caps. The Robinson Report placed the blame for rising sea levels on the use of fossil fuels by human civilization. Exxon, an oil company which has often been accused of manipulating climate data, is targeted once more in the latest report. "Exxon has said its research widely mirrored the global understanding of climate issues at the time. The company last year accused climate researchers and other investigators of cherry-picking its record on the issue by largely ignoring its work on climate issues," UPI reported. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Johl A.,Center for International Environmental Law |
Duyck S.,University of Lapland
Ethics, Policy and Environment | Year: 2012
Over the past several years, the human rights implications of climate change have become more evident. While extreme weather events and slow onset changes caused by climate change affect the exercise of human rights, the implementation of climate change policies - in relation to both mitigation and adaptation - may also lead to the infringement of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. Despite this recognition by the UN Human Rights Council and other bodies, the international climate change regime has failed to address these implications, recognizing only in 2010 the importance for parties to respect human rights in the implementation of the Framework Convention. The adoption of the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), together with the reform of existing mechanisms and the operationalization of new institutions, offers several opportunities to ensure the adequate fulfillment of human rights obligations under the Convention. In this commentary, we highlight four concrete options available to the parties in the upcoming negotiations to guarantee the respect of substantial and procedural rights of all the stakeholders and to offer a redress mechanism in the case of loss and damages caused by climate change. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
Finer M.,Save Americas Forests |
Finer M.,Center for International Environmental Law |
Jenkins C.N.,North Carolina State University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012
Due to rising energy demands and abundant untapped potential, hydropower projects are rapidly increasing in the Neotropics. This is especially true in the wet and rugged Andean Amazon, where regional governments are prioritizing new hydroelectric dams as the centerpiece of long-term energy plans. However, the current planning for hydropower lacks adequate regional and basin-scale assessment of potential ecological impacts. This lack of strategic planning is particularly problematic given the intimate link between the Andes and Amazonian flood plain, together one of the most species rich zones on Earth. We examined the potential ecological impacts, in terms of river connectivity and forest loss, of the planned proliferation of hydroelectric dams across all Andean tributaries of the Amazon River. Considering data on the full portfolios of existing and planned dams, along with data on roads and transmission line systems, we developed a new conceptual framework to estimate the relative impacts of all planned dams. There are plans for 151 new dams greater than 2 MW over the next 20 years, more than a 300% increase. These dams would include five of the six major Andean tributaries of the Amazon. Our ecological impact analysis classified 47% of the potential new dams as high impact and just 19% as low impact. Sixty percent of the dams would cause the first major break in connectivity between protected Andean headwaters and the lowland Amazon. More than 80% would drive deforestation due to new roads, transmission lines, or inundation. We conclude with a discussion of three major policy implications of these findings. 1) There is a critical need for further strategic regional and basin scale evaluation of dams. 2) There is an urgent need for a strategic plan to maintain Andes-Amazon connectivity. 3) Reconsideration of hydropower as a low-impact energy source in the Neotropics. © 2012 Finer, Jenkins.
Loibl G.,Diplomatic Academy of Vienna |
Hite K.,Center for International Environmental Law |
Martinez C.,Global Policy Unit |
Morgera E.,University of Edinburgh
Environmental Policy and Law | Year: 2010
UNFCCC / COP-15 - Final Stages of the Copenhagen Conference "No Longer Secret" 134 UNFCCC - Major Economies Forum and BASIC Ministers Meetings (Soledad Aguilar) 135 UNEP GCSS-11 / GMEF - Building Confidence in the Multilateral System (Elisabeth Mrema) 136 UNEP - Compilation of Environmental Goals and Objectives (Gerhard Loibl) 140 CSD / COP-18 - Transport, Chemicals and Waste Management 141 UNCSD / PC1 - Rio+20: What Next? (Kristen Hite and Constanza Martinez) 144 UNCCD - The Role of the Desertification Convention in the Early 21st Century "Facing the Fundamentals of Human Existence" (Bo Kjellén) 146 CBD / SBSTTA 14 and WGRI-3 - Integration and Implementation in Focus (Elisa Morgera) 153 FAO - Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (Elsa Tsioumani) 158. © 2010 IOS Press.
News Article | April 19, 2016
Last week, the Washington-based Center for International Environmental Law released a raft of public documents showing that the toxic oil and gas/carbon dioxide relationship was known decades earlier than the previously documents revealed. The first news about the massive coverup surfaced last year, when InsideClimate News put out a special report that top executives at Exxon had known about the role of fossil fuels in global warming as early as 1977. InsideClimate News found that instead of working to combat the risks their products presented, the petroleum industry leaders responded by covering up and obscuring evidence from their own scientists about climate change. They even lobbied against efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Facts then surfaced that in 1968, two scientists from Stanford Research Institute had warned the American Petroleum Institute—the US trade association for the oil and natural gas industry—that “man is now engaged in a vast geophysical experiment with his environment, the earth”—an experience that “may be the cause of serious world-wide environmental changes.” “If the Earth’s temperature increases significantly, a number of events might be expected to occur, including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, a rise in sea levels, warming of the oceans, and an increase in photosynthesis.” As we now know, they were right. In January 2016, New York’s attorney general and top lawyers in three other states started an investigation into ExxonMobil over the mounting allegations that it had lied to the public and its investors about climate change. But the Center for International Environmental Law, a nonprofit legal organization, has now shown that the story is even older and bigger than that 48-year-old Stanford report. According to Carroll Muffett, the center’s president, the newly released documents show that the industry, including ExxonMobil (then Humble Oil), was “clearly on notice” about fossil fuels and CO2 emissions by 1957, 20 years before ICN had revealed. Also, they clearly show that it had been “shaping science to shape public opinion” even earlier, in the 1940s. CIEL says that by combing through scientific articles, industry histories, and other documents, it traced the industry’s coordinated, decades-long deception back to a 1946 meeting in Los Angeles. During that meeting, oil execs decided to form a group—“the Smoke and Fumes Committee.” Its purpose was to “fund scientific research into smog and other air pollution issues and, significantly, use that research to inform and shape public opinion about environmental issues,” CIEL says. Those fudged “scientific” results have been used to “promote public skepticism of environmental science and environmental regulations the industry considered hasty, costly, and potentially unnecessary”—despite the clear but suppressed evidence to the contrary. Muffett’s view: the new documents “add to the growing body of evidence that the oil industry worked to actively undermine public confidence in climate science and in the need for climate action even as its own knowledge of climate risks was growing.” The industry group had no response to The Huffington Post‘s requests for comment. Says Jeremy Funk, Communications Director of Americans United for Change: “Big Oil [has] spent decades orchestrating a deception campaign that undermined our public health…. After similarly damning internal tobacco industry memos surfaced of a coordinated cover-up of their products’ dangers, states and consumers’ families were rewarded billions of dollars in damages, and tough new regulations were put in place by the court system and Congress.” Continuing to hammer away at the petroleum industry, Funk also implicates the Republican Congress for putting campaign contributors ahead of the health of the public and the environment. He condemns the GOP for insisting that taxpayers continue shelling out billions a year in century-old oil subsidies, “in effect forcing Americans to help pay for the Big Oil propaganda being used against them.” Muffett adds that any document viewed alone has a plausible element of deniability. “But when you put all of the pieces to the story out there and see how they link, the zone of plausible deniability shrinks, and it shrinks substantially…. Once the companies learned this information, once they were aware of it, they [could not] unlearn it. This becomes the baseline.” CIEL plans to reveal additional documents in the near future. Muffett concludes: “Oil companies had an early opportunity to acknowledge climate science and climate risks, and to enable consumers to make informed choices. They chose a different path. The public deserves to know why.” Drive an electric car? Complete one of our short surveys for our next electric car report. Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.
Finer M.,Center for International Environmental Law |
Jenkins C.N.,North Carolina State University |
Powers B.,E Technology International
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013
The western Amazon continues to be an active and controversial zone of hydrocarbon exploration and production. We argue for the urgent need to implement best practices to reduce the negative environmental and social impacts associated with the sector. Here, we present a three-part study aimed at resolving the major obstacles impeding the advancement of best practice in the region. Our focus is on Loreto, Peru, one of the largest and most dynamic hydrocarbon zones in the Amazon. First, we develop a set of specific best practice guidelines to address the lack of clarity surrounding the issue. These guidelines incorporate both engineering-based criteria and key ecological and social factors. Second, we provide a detailed analysis of existing and planned hydrocarbon activities and infrastructure, overcoming the lack of information that typically hampers large-scale impact analysis. Third, we evaluate the planned activities and infrastructure with respect to the best practice guidelines. We show that Loreto is an extremely active hydrocarbon front, highlighted by a number of recent oil and gas discoveries and a sustained government push for increased exploration. Our analyses reveal that the use of technical best practice could minimize future impacts by greatly reducing the amount of required infrastructure such as drilling platforms and access roads. We also document a critical need to consider more fully the ecological and social factors, as the vast majority of planned infrastructure overlaps sensitive areas such as protected areas, indigenous territories, and key ecosystems and watersheds. Lastly, our cost analysis indicates that following best practice does not impose substantially greater costs than conventional practice, and may in fact reduce overall costs. Barriers to the widespread implementation of best practice in the Amazon clearly exist, but our findings show that there can be great benefits to its implementation. © 2013 Finer et al.
News Article | December 11, 2015
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is hoping to have the final text ready on Friday, and key issues remain open, with talks likely to carry on through the night. Human rights organizations, aid agencies and climate-impacted people were disappointed to find an earlier binding proposal that said a Paris agreement should be implemented "on the basis of respect for human rights" had been thrown out. “We would certainly think human rights is not something that should be dropped,” said Benjamin Schachter of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. "There still is time to bring this language back." There has been concern during the two-week talks in Paris that some states - including Saudi Arabia, Norway and the United States - have been trying to weaken the presence of human rights in the climate deal. The removal of the reference was a particular affront because of its timing, campaigners said. "Incredibly, references to human rights have been stripped from the body of this U.N. agreement on the very day that people around the world mark Human Rights Day," said Friends of the Earth International climate justice coordinator Sara Shaw. On Thursday morning, U.N. experts said human rights are already being violated by climate change impacts, including more extreme weather and rising seas, as well as solutions. A report from the U.N. Environment Programme said the environmental impacts of climate change pose a threat to human rights, including the rights to health, food, water and adequate housing. Ursula Rakova of the Cartaret islands in the Pacific, a community leader who has been trying to relocate some of her people threatened by rising seas to Bougainville, said she was "very angry this agreement does not protect our rights". “Looking at this (text), it doesn’t give us any hope. It means business as usual. Climate change impacts violate our rights,” she added. International aid group Oxfam described the loss of the binding human rights language as "extremely disappointing", noting it followed the earlier loss of references to gender equality and a just transition to a clean economy. The non-binding introduction to the latest version of the text acknowledges that climate change is "a common concern to humankind". It says countries should "promote, respect and take into account their respective obligations on human rights" when developing policies and taking action to address climate change. But this does not satisfy human rights officials or campaigners. "The language in the preamble is merely aspirational. It doesn’t require (governments) to do anything,” said Alyssa Johl of the Center for International Environmental Law. “This means it’s not a priority issue for them.” Joni Pegram, climate change policy advisor with the U.N. children's agency Unicef UK, said combating climate change and helping communities adapt should be about ensuring the rights of children, particularly the poorest, and other vulnerable groups, including migrants, indigenous peoples and women. "World leaders talk of securing a deal that will protect the planet for children and future generations, but what they are proposing suggests that these are nothing more than warm words," she said.