Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
New Science Rules for Offshore Drilling Send Mixed Message
MMS "Transparency" Mandate Riddled with Welter of Non-Release Categories
The federal agency responsible for
approving offshore drilling, wind and other deep-water energy
developments has issued a new code of scientific conduct that appears
to promote secrecy while touting the value of transparency, according
to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The net
result is that scientists working on controversial ocean-based energy
projects will be unable to obtain independent review of industry
The new "Integrity and Code of Conduct
for Science, Scientific Assessment, and Other Similar Technical
Activities" was unveiled by the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS)
in an all-employee e-mail on January 8, 2010. It covers that agency's
branch for Offshore Energy and Minerals Management.
The action seems to be a reaction to abuses under the Bush
administration which suppressed protests from MMS and other agency
scientists about how badly environmental assessments of Arctic offshore
oil plans were skewed. The failure of MMS to openly analyze suppressed
scientific concerns - on issues ranging from the effect of oil spills
to the introduction of invasive species - resulted in court decisions
striking down agency drilling plans and schedules for sensitive Arctic
This new scientific code of conduct, however, sends decidedly mixed
messages about what may or may not be released by scientists. On one
hand, the code declares "Science, scientific assessment and other
similar technical activities shall be conducted with the fullest
transparency allowed by law, from the planning stages through
completion of the work." On the other hand, the code forbids
disclosure of any information by scientists contrary to -
"agreements between MMS and its partners [i.e., oil companies] relating
to use, security, and release of sensitive, confidential, proprietary,
and administratively controlled, deliberative or personally
identifiable information and data provided to the MMS."
"This scientific code leaves the oil industry in charge of what
information the public may see about development of the Arctic," stated
PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the vast majority of
data consists of industry submittals, estimates and monitoring
reports. "An MMS scientist would also have to be a Philadelphia lawyer
to know what he or she could publish or disclose under this new code."
The transmittal memo for the new code states that "MMS can now join the
list of other DOI Bureaus who have established and released comparable
guidelines." Yet, the MMS code stands in stark contrast to the policy
recently promulgated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, another
Interior agency, guaranteeing its scientists the right to publish
without any prior "policy review." The MMS code also does not
incorporate elements of President Obama's scientific integrity policy,
such as whistleblower protection for scientists.
"Significantly, MMS compiled its new 'integrity' code in secret,
without involving the public or its own line scientists," added Ruch.
"We need a government-wide overhaul of information access to prevent
industry-friendly agencies from shielding data the public should see."
One big difference from past efforts, however, is that the new code
applies not only to scientists but also to "decisionmakers" who engage
in "coercive manipulation" or other misconduct. Unfortunately, the
code has no enforcement mechanism to ensure that agency managers would
be punished for improperly altering scientific reports.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.
"Despite this small victory, the razor buoys are only a fraction of Gov. Abbott's racist and murderous Operation Lone Star," one group noted.
A federal appellate court panel on Friday delivered a blow to Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's anti-migrant regime, ruling 2-1 that the state must remove from the Rio Grande a buoy barrier intended to block people from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sued Texas and Abbott over the buoys, which are part of the governor's Operation Lone Star , in July. U.S. Judge David A. Ezra of the Western District of Texas, an appointee of former President Ronald Reagan, ordered the state to remove the barrier and prohibited new or additional blockades in September.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit initially blocked Ezra's ruling while it considered the case, but Judges Dana Douglas and Carolyn Dineen King—respectively appointed by President Joe Biden and former President Jimmy Carter—affirmed his decision that the buoys violate federal law on Friday. Judge Don Willett, an appointee of ex-President Donald Trump, dissented.
"I've seen Gov. Abbott's border buoys for myself. They're illegal and dangerous."
The lower court "considered the threat to navigation and federal government operations on the Rio Grande, as well as the potential threat to human life the floating barrier created," Douglas wrote for the majority. "All of the district court's findings of fact were well supported by the record, and its conclusion... was not an abuse of discretion."
American Immigration Council policy director Aaron Reichlin-Melnick
on social media that the case turned out the way it did, even though the 5th Circuit is the
U.S. appeals court, "in part because the panel draw was a very good one for the DOJ."
Abbott said Friday that the decision "is clearly wrong," that he and GOP state Attorney General Ken Paxton "will seek an immediate rehearing by the entire court," and that they will seek intervention from the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court "if needed."'
Despite the governor's determination to continue the legal battle, opponents of 4-foot-wide orange spherical buoys—which span 1,000 feet of the river near Eagle Pass—celebrated the appeals court decision.
"I've seen Gov. Abbott's border buoys for myself. They're illegal and dangerous," said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), who led a congressional trip to the barrier and a letter urging the Biden administration to act. "I applaud the Justice Department for today's hard-fought victory in the conservative 5th Circuit and look forward to seeing these death traps removed from the Rio Grande."
The immigrant youth-led group United We Dream also welcomed the "small victory" but stressed that "the razor buoys are only a fraction of Gov. Abbott's racist and murderous Operation Lone Star," pointing to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report .
HRW revealed earlier this week that "dangerous chases of vehicles thought to contain migrants under the Texas government's Operation Lone Star program led to crashes that killed at least 74 people and injured at least another 189 in a 29-month period."
Alison Parker, HRW's deputy U.S. director, declared that the state operation "is maximizing chaos, fear, and human rights abuses against Texans and migrants, which might be a cynical way to win political points but is not a responsible way to run a government."
The report and ruling on Texas' operation come as congressional Republicans
to force through what migrant rights advocates are calling "unconscionable" changes to asylum policy in exchange for funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.
"Each bombing, each of the killings, should be properly investigated," said Luis Moreno Ocampo, "but... the siege itself is already genocide."
Luis Moreno Ocampo, the International Criminal Court's first chief prosecutor, said Friday that both Hamas and Israel perpetrated genocide—the Palestinian resistance group by murdering around 1,200 Israelis on October 7, and the Israeli government by besieging Gaza.
Appearing on Al Jazeera 's "UpFront," Moreno Ocampo said that "you have Hamas committing war crimes... crimes against humanity, the crime committed in Israel on October 7... and probably genocide, because Hamas has [the] intention to destroy Israelis as a group."
"Then, Israel's reaction also includes many crimes," he continued. "It's complicated to define the war crimes, because each bombing has to be evaluated. But there is something very clear: The siege of Gaza itself... is a form of genocide."
"Article 2C of the Genocide Convention defines that you don't need to kill people to commit genocide," the Argentinian jurist added. "The rules say inflicting conditions to destroy the group, that itself is a genocide. So creating the siege itself is a genocide, and that is very clear."
"Many officers of the Israeli government are also
genocidal intentions," Moreno Ocampo noted. "That's why it's easy to say and there's reasonable basis to believe Israel is committing a genocide in Gaza, just the siege. Each bombing, each of the killings, should be properly investigated but... the siege itself is already genocide."
Under Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide —the first human rights treaty unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly—genocide is defined as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group":
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
More than 800 international lawyers, jurists, and genocide scholars in October published an open letter stating that "we are compelled to sound the alarm about the possibility of the crime of genocide being perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip."
The letter notes that "preexisting conditions in the Gaza Strip had already prompted discussions of genocide prior to the current escalation," notably by the National Lawyers Guild , the Russell Tribunal on Palestine , and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).
U.S. President Joe Biden in October that his "unwavering" support for Israel, including
for an additional $14.3 billion in American military aid for the country atop the nearly $4 billion it already gets each year—could make him complicit in genocide.
As for the problem of prosecuting Israeli genocide perpetrators when the country is not signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, Moreno Ocampo noted during the interview that "the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem."
"Any crime committed in those places, by any person, could be mitigated by the International Criminal Court," he added.
"These actions undermine the integrity of the COP presidency and the process as a whole," former Marshallese President Hilda Heine wrote in her resignation letter to COP28 chief Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber.
United Nations Climate Change Conference advisory board member Hilda Heine resigned on Friday, citing reports that the Emirati oil executive presiding over COP28 has been busy pushing for fossil fuel deals in the run-up to the event.
Earlier this week, the Center for Climate Reporting and the BBC reported that Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber—who is simultaneously serving as COP28 president and CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC)—"has held scores of meetings with senior government officials, royalty, and business leaders from around the world in recent months" as the "COP28 team has quietly planned to use this access as an opportunity to increase exports of ADNOC's oil and gas."
"These actions undermine the integrity of the COP presidency and the process as a whole."
In her resignation letter, which was seen and first reported by Reuters , Heine—who is a former president of the low-lying Marshall Islands, one of the world's most climate-imperiled nations—called the United Arab Emirates' plan to make oil and gas deals at COP28 "deeply disappointing."
"These actions undermine the integrity of the COP presidency and the process as a whole," she asserted, adding that the only way Al Jaber can restore confidence is to "deliver an outcome that demonstrates that you are committed to phasing out fossil fuels."
Al Jaber has denied that he's using COP28 for fossil fuel deal-making.
"These allegations are false, not true, incorrect, and not accurate," he said Wednesday at a Dubai press conference. "And it's an attempt to undermine the work of the COP28 presidency."
A spokesperson for COP28's presidency said they are "extremely disappointed by Dr. Heine's resignation."
"We appreciated her advice throughout the year and that we only wish she would have been with us here in the UAE celebrating the adoption of a fund that will support vulnerable island states and those most affected by climate impacts," the spokesperson said, referring to the global "loss and damage" fund that one critic
as "a drop in the ocean compared to the scale of the need they are to address."
The UAE isn't the only major oil producer pushing fossil fuels while participating in COP28. Saudi Arabia—whose Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday was among the world leaders kicking off talks at the conference—"is overseeing a sweeping global investment program" intended to "ensure that emerging economies across Africa and Asia become vastly more dependent on oil," the Center for Climate Reporting and Channel 4 News revealed this week.