Washington, DC – U.S. Treasury Department officials are blocking congressionally mandated environmental reviews for projects financed by multinational banks, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a consequence, unnecessarily destructive projects in Asia, Africa and South America are improperly receiving U.S. support in obtaining loans from institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Under a statute commonly called the “Pelosi Amendment,” after its author, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the U.S. delegations to international lending institutions, such as the World Bank, are forbidden from supporting any financial aid to projects that have not undergone environmental review. The agency charged with monitoring compliance with review requirements is the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). According to interagency correspondence, Treasury has directed USAID to exclude from its reports to Congress that –
Nearly half the money loaned by multilateral development banks has received no environmental review at all;
Many of the reviews are incomplete and do not meet the law’s standards. For example, the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline – the biggest development project in Africa – lacks plans for dealing with oil spills, invasive species from tanker ballast and other foreign commerce and the absence of support infrastructure for large-scale petroleum operations; and
Reviews are often completed after-the-fact, with little consideration of alternatives and are not readily available to outside groups or native populations.
“The Bush Administration is giving short shrift not only to environmental protections but also to safeguards against rank corruption and disruption of native peoples,” commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.”While a domestic project like oil-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge receives extensive study and debate, each year the U.S. is financing scores of projects in developing countries, each with potentially far greater impact, with little or no environmental review.”
In addition to flouting the Pelosi Amendment, PEER charges that suppression of the environmental reviews also means that problems do not get analyzed until much later in the process, sometimes after international financing has already been committed or spent.