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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It can grow to a maximum of six inches (16 centimeters), change color depending on mood and habitat, and, like all seahorses, the White's seahorse male gestates its young. But this tiny snouted fish is under threat.
Building an Ocean Seahorse Destination<p>Seahorses are found in tropical and temperate coastal water worldwide, but are most abundant around Australia, China and the Philippines. </p><p>Trade in the tiny creatures is strictly regulated because of their use in traditional medicine, aquariums and their sale as dried curios. But because they are poor swimmers and cannot easily move elsewhere, habitat loss is a particular threat for these curious animals. </p><p>Seahorses wrap their tails around seagrass and corals to avoid being carried away on currents. They use the habitat to spawn and hide from predators such as crabs, while also feeding on riches of plankton and small crustaceans living in the reef.</p><p><span></span>Where corals aren't available, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.1217" target="_blank">scientists</a> found seahorses taking up residence in fishing nets and old crab traps abandoned at the bottom of the ocean. </p>
Mixing With the Locals<p>Baby seahorse mortality is high in the wild because they are easily caught, so those bred in the protected environment of the aquarium weren't ready to be released into the wild until early May.</p><p>The team released 90 new arrivals into Sydney Harbor, placing some directly into the purpose-built hotels, and others onto a net that wild seahorses had already settled on.</p><p>Before setting them free, the researchers marked each young seahorse with a fluorescent tag with unique IDs inserted just beneath the skin to track how they get on in the different environments. </p><p>"The most exciting part was being able to put these animals into the wild and then go back a month later and still see them surviving and growing," said McCracken. </p><p>The seahorses will be old enough to mate and reproduce around October or November 2020. And researchers hope that by then, they will be able to breed with the wild population. </p>
Building a Global Seahorse Hotel Chain<p>With seahorses everywhere facing the loss of their coral reef homes, similar projects have sprung up in places like Greece and South Africa, home to the world's most endangered seahorse, the Knysna seahorse. </p><p>"The endangered South African seahorse is benefiting from something quite similar, even though it wasn't intentional," said Peter Teske, professor at the Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg.</p><p>In the South African <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322649251_An_endangered_seahorse_selectively_chooses_an_artificial_structure" target="_blank">case</a>, seahorses have bedded down in "Reno mattresses" — wire cages filled with rocks — that were used to build a new marina. Researchers from NGO Knysna Basin Project found the structures acted as a refuge for the animals.<span></span></p><p><span></span>While Teske describes the seahorse hotels as "a positive news story" and a great way to create public awareness of conservation, he added that establishing artificial habitats in some areas will only prevent the extinction of local populations.</p><p>"For a complete recovery, it is necessary to give the natural habitat a chance to regenerate," said the seahorse expert. </p>
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