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BP Accused of 'Side-Stepping' Russian Sanctions
By Andy Rowell
A new expose published Monday reveals how BP, working closely with the British government, has been "side-stepping" sanctions introduced after the Russian annexation of Crimea.
The expose is based on documents, obtained under British Freedom of Information laws, which have been obtained by the campaign organization, Culture Unstained, part of the ArtNotOil Coalition, which campaigns to kick fossil fuel money out of the arts. The campaign group is particularly critical of BP's ongoing sponsorship of the British Museum in the UK.
The documents reveal what Culture Unstained calls the "close working relationship between UK government and BP over Russia" despite the fact that the material "suggests that BP is attempting to bypass sanctions preventing shale drilling in Russia."
The British Government's hypocrisy is evident in the fact that despite taking a strong public line on Russia, the UK government has been helping BP water down U.S. sanctions and hosting events to boost UK ties with Russian oil and gas sector.
Over a period of several months, the documents outline how BP had numerous meetings with British government ministers and embassy staff, with British Ministers repeatedly offering support for BP's business in Russia.
For example, in February 2017, the British Embassy in Russia hosted a Seminar on Vocation and Professional Education in the Oil and Gas Sector. It was designed to strengthen collaboration on "UK and Russia education companies, schools and universities in one of the key industries—oil and gas." The president of BP Russia, David Campbell, gave the opening remarks at the event.
Two months later, the Department for International Trade hosted a workshop on "How to break into the Russian Oil & Gas Sector." It highlighted that "maintaining oil & gas production requires large scale use of new technologies, which largely are not restricted by sanctions, and offered 'presentations by legal advisors about sanctions.'"
Meanwhile, in June 2017, when new U.S. Sanctions on Russia were being proposed, BP and other oil companies started mobilizing against the U.S. bill. Within days, the British Embassy in Russia emailed BP to discuss "what this could mean for UK interests." Of particular concern was BP's 19.75 percent stake in Russian state oil company, Rosneft.
That same month, in a meeting with the British trade minister, Greg Hands, in June 2017, the documents suggest BP appears to have been attempting to work around sanctions to gain approval for an unconventional shale oil project.
BP was waiting for a license that "In the company's view … turns on the definition of shale." EU sanctions had aimed to prevent European companies helping Russian companies extract unconventional oil, by ruling out oil "located in shale formations by way of hydraulic fracturing."
Within months, according to Culture Unstained, BP's lobbying effort against U.S. sanctions "seems to have been successful."
On Aug. 2, BP CEO Bob Dudley told market analysts that the original draft of the sanctions bill had been full of "'very significant unintended consequences' but now the company was not "aware of any material adverse effect on our current income and investment in Russia or elsewhere, or our ability to work with Rosneft itself".
Chris Garrard, Co-director of Culture Unstained, argues that, "BP is turning massive profits in Russia by partnering with Rosneft, a company responsible for record numbers of oil spills, turning a blind eye to corruption and cozying up to Putin's notorious 'right-hand man.' But instead of holding BP to account, the UK government seems willing to help the company sidestep sanctions while the British Museum launders its brand."
Meanwhile yesterday afternoon, activists from the group, BP or not BP? dropped an eleven-metre floor-to-balcony banner refelcting the 2,727 oil spills caused by BP's Russian partner, Rosneft, in a single region in just one year in the British Museum.
Performers then showered thousands of paper "oil drops" from balcony in the iconic Great Court to protest against the final day of the BP-sponsored Scythians exhibition, held in partnership with the Russian State Hermitage Museum.
"BP is deeply embedded in this Russian oil giant, which is well-known as one of the most corrupt and polluting in the world," said Helen Glynn, who took part in the performance. "So why has the British Museum allowed BP to sponsor an exhibition of artefacts from the very regions and cultures that the company is putting at risk?"
"This week, the New York Mayor announced that the city is suing BP and four other oil companies for the climate change damage they have caused," she said. "The British Museum faces huge repetitional risks by continuing to promote and defend a company so toxic that one of the world's richest cities has now turned against it."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.