Months ago, forest destroyer Sinar Mas told industry peers that it would formally respond to issues raised by a Greenpeace report. After mountains of bad press and losing business, many had hoped the palm oil, paper, and coal giant would use this moment to come clean, admit mistakes and move forward to improve its business.
Unfortunately, Sinar Mas is not showing any signs of doing that.
Sinar Mas was meant to publish an audit into its own activities by the end of June. They baulked and postponed until late July. Now, they are saying it will be August 10th.
In the meantime, Sinar Mas has hired PR firm Bell Pottinger to help present their greenwash. Bell Pottinger recently did public relations work for Trafigura, the oil trading company who was recently convicted and fined for illegally transporting toxic waste to the Ivory Coast. Classy clientele!
Anticipating that Sinar Mas will try to greenwash the results of their flawed audit, Greenpeace just released (more!) fresh evidence that notorious forest destroying practices continue unabated and in direct violation of the company’s own environmental commitments on protecting forests and peatlands. The report, Empires of Destruction, contains evidence that Sinar Mas is clearing rainforest and peatland areas on the island of Borneo. Further photographic evidence shows Sinar Mas recently cleared rainforest orangutan habitat. While Sinar Mas talks about protecting rainforests and peatlands, its actions speak louder, and tell a different story.
But, it is not just what Sinar Mas has done in the past that should cause alarm – it is what it plans to do in the future. In addition the report details how Sinar Mas plans to expand its empire of destruction even further. Last week, the Sinar Mas palm oil division, Golden Agri Resources, confirmed plans to expand into an additional 2.5 million acres
With wildlife like the orangutan and Sumatran tiger being pushed towards extinction, the Paradise Forests cannot afford to continue to be the victim of Sinar Mas’s ever expanding empire.
The good news is that Nestle, Kraft, Unilever, HSBC, and other prominent companies are distancing themselves from Sinar Mas. Until Sinar Mas is no longer involved in destroying rainforests and peatlands, other companies who still purchase from them – like fast food companies Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts and Pizza Hut – should take similar measures. Take a moment now to tell those companies to stop serving up forest destruction!
For the forest,
Given that global warming pollution has officially fallen from the agenda of the Senate, legislative proposals on the table to reduce the political, economic, and environmental impact of the oil industry provide an opportunity for Congress to slightly vindicate itself. On Friday the House passed legislation that finally removes special protections that oil companies have received for decades, such as limitation on liability for the damage caused by oil spills, exemptions from environmental review, and the ability to avoid US safety standards altogether. In light of the BP oil disaster, passage of these policies should be a forgone conclusion.
The Senate is expected to vote soon, maybe tomorrow, on it’s own package of policies in response to the Gulf disaster. The House passed the bill 209 to 193. With an astounding 30 Reps not voting, including 21 GOP, it is possibly a good sign for the Senate vote this week, as it may mean many conservative Representatives felt it politically impossible to vote no.
At the same time, it was not a disappointment, but a relief, that the Senate Majority Leader concluded the Senate should take a break from proposals to cap global warming pollution. It is shocking that this announcement to end the effort to solve the world's most dire and pressing problem comes with five months left in 2010. However, the Senate level of ambition to pass effective climate policy has waned from weak to damaging. With the gluts of industry giveaways, the latest bill drafts proposing a carbon cap exemplify that the legislative effort is carjacked by polluting industry lobbyists. If they have truly stopped trying for now, Congress must not think that they can simply pick up where they left off, because they are nowhere near producing legislation to overhaul America's economy to become modern, competitive, and sustainable.
This election season, members of Congress owe it to their children's future to use their campaigns to build momentum for energy policy that keeps the planet livable. What this Congress will have failed to produce is a set of policies that contains three broad elements that dissipated from legislative proposals in the Senate.
First, Congress must campaign for slashing global warming pollution in a manner that is fast and furious. We need to do whatever it takes. This is not about balancing the required efforts and bail outs of polluting industry. It is about taking deadly serious the pollution that made 2010 the hottest year on record. It is about stopping perverse subsidies that provide seven times more public funding for coal, oil, and gas than for renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal.
Second, Congress must campaign for significant financial assistance to help poor countries adapt to the devastating climate changes occurring already, and to develop cleanly, so that our efforts at home to protect the planet are not in vain. International climate financing is part of a fair and reasonable commitment from the United States, a wealthy country with the greatest historical share of global warming pollution, and is vitally necessary for achieving an effective global climate change agreement.
Third, Congress must campaign to protect and encourage the use of all existing tools for reducing global warming pollution, which includes laws they passed decades ago like the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act is the reason why the administration can now require long-overdue pollution abatement technologies for the nation's dirtiest smokestacks, and why efficiency standards for America's cars will not be pitifully behind requirements in China. Members of Congress who are serious about stopping climate catastrophe will provide encouragement and support for other public officials, such as in state legislatures, the EPA, and the White House, to act quickly on this global emergency.
While some news reports attempt to downplay the amount of damage that has been done, it's clear that the Gulf oil disaster is one of the worst environmental tragedies in US history. This catastrophe has also further revealed the extraordinary extent of the oil industry’s influence on our government. Many questions remain unanswered about government communications with BP and other oil companies, underwater oil plumes, impacts to marine wildlife, chemical dispersants, oil drilling safety regulation, and more.
We've submitted 27 Freedom of Information Act requests to multiple government agencies and two Public Records Act Requests to the offices of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. The scope of these FOIA requests were derived from our ongoing field research as well as tips from local activists and reporters.
The following is a list of the requests we've filed. In parentheses after each item is the agency with whom the request was filed (click on any of the agencies to view a PDF of the request).
- Details of any and all mammal spotter flights conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Gulf region (USFSW)
- Any and all chain of custody forms for deceased wildlife in the Gulf region (USFWS)
- Details regarding turtles being killed in controlled oil burns in the Gulf region (USCG, NOAA, USFWS)
- Details of U.S. Navy flights contracted for whale and dolphin sightings in the Gulf region (Navy)
- Details of any and all communications or information regarding any of 23 endangered or threatened species of concern in the Gulf region including sperm whales and sea turtles (NOAA, USCG)
- Details of any communications about “carcass collection facilities” in the Gulf region (USFWS)
- Details of any communications between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and BP concerning dead mammals or marine life in the Gulf region (USFWS)
- Details of Natural Resource Damage Assessment flights (USFWS)
Oil drilling safety regulation
- Details of communication between the United States Coast Guard and ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, and/or ConocoPhillips concerning the safety of oil rigs in the Gulf and/or the term “blowout preventers” (USCG)
- Details of communications between the Minerals Management Service and the Offshore Operators Committee Deep Spills Working Group. (BOEMRE)
- Details of any information concerning the 27,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf (BOEMRE)
- Details of all internal communications regarding the 23 blowouts that have occurred on oil rigs in the Gulf since 2006. (BOEMRE)
- Details of all communications between MMS staffers K. Stauffer and J. McCarroll who contributed to deepwater environmental assessments (BOEMRE)
- Communications with USGS staff member Keith A. Kvenvolden concerning natural oil seeps (USGS)
- Details of violations and inspections and the certification process of the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port facility (USCG)|
- Internal communications within and between the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard and BP concerning directives on dispersant use and exemptions granted to BP by the Coast Guard (EPA, USCG)
- Details of the effectiveness of sub-sea dispersant application, how the Environmental Protection Agency has monitored BP’s use of dispersants, and the point at which dispersants have a greater environmental impact than leaked oil (EPA)
- Records of dispersant-carrying aircraft with specific call signs flying out of Stennis International Airport (FAA)
- Details of communications regarding BP employees or contractors and their authority or ability to police public lands (USCG)
Underwater oil plumes
- Internal communications from NOAA missions to search for underwater oil plumes (NOAA)
- Details of all meetings and correspondence between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and BP regarding underwater oil plumes (NOAA)
Communication Between Oil Companies and State Offices
- Details of any and all internal and external communications between Governor Bobby Jindal or any of his staff and the following companies: BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, and/or the American Petroleum Institute (Office of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal)
- Details of any and all internal and external communications between Governor Haley Barbour or any of his staff and the following companies: BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, and/or the American Petroleum Institute (Office of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour)
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