Federal agencies sued for causing global warming

A lawsuit has been filed against two US government agencies in a precedent-setting case challenging taxpayer-funded projects that are causing climate change.

Environmental groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth (FoE), and the cities of Boulder (Colorado), Oakland (Santa Monica) and Arcata (California) have filed the suit on behalf of their members and citizens against the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

The suit asserts that OPIC and Ex-Im were in breach of the law when they financed more than Us $32 billion in projects without assessing their contribution to global warming or environmental impact as is required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Key provisions of NEPA require all federal agencies to conduct an assessment of programmes and project-specific decisions that have a significant effect on the human environment.

“The claim by the Bush Administration lawyers that pollution from these projects is not having an impact is reminiscent of an era when tobacco scientists stated that smoking didn’t cause cancer and got away with it,” research director for Greenpeace Kert Davies pointed out.

The projects under scrutiny, which were approved over the last ten years, include oil fields, pipelines and coal-fired power plants, and account for around 32% of US greenhouse gas emissions annually – amounting to 8% of the total global annual emissions.

Many of the largest new oil field developments in South America, Mexico, the Caspian region and Southeast Asia are amongst the list, and the companies that have benefited from these projects include Exxon, Halliburton and Enron.

In 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report on the growing domestic impacts of global warming, stating that climate changes over the next few decades were likely to put south-eastern coastal communities at greater risk of storm surges, prompt more severe heatwaves, and reduce snowpack and water supplies in the West.

“Tragically, the federal government is violating federal law, which requires an assessment of cumulative impacts,” said Jerry Brown, mayor of the City of Oakland. “This injures the citizens of Oakland and every person in this country.”

“We’ll fight as long as it takes to get federal law properly enforced.”

By Jane Kettle

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