Contributed by Sophia Robison
In January, Congress passed the massive House Omnibus Act and sent it to President Obama, awaiting his signature to be enacted. The omnibus outlines the United States budget for the coming year, which totals to over one trillion dollars. The act has some very interesting and far reaching elements, but, most surprising among them, is the large amount of environmental legislation throughout the document.
En 1992, Naciones Unidas organizó la Conferencia sobre el Medio Ambiente y el Desarrollo, cuyos resultados se plasmaron en una Declaración de Principios rectores para el derecho ambiental. Uno de ellos, el Principio 10, sobre participación ciudadana, se refiere al acceso a la justicia ambiental. Desde entonces, el Principio 10 ha sustentado un importante desarrollo doctrinario, normativo y jurisprudencial ambiental, a nivel mundial. Este ha sido el caso ecuatoriano, cuya Constitución acogió su esencia con esa jerarquía normativa.
Contributed by: Yelyzaveta Aleksyeyeva and Hanna Khomechko
In 2011 and 2012 the Government of Ukraine, pushed by several multinational extracting companies, announced an auction for the two major gas fields to be developed by hydraulic fracturing. In 2012, Royal Dutch Shell won the auction with regard to Yuzivska field in eastern Ukraine (7886 km2) and Chevron – to Oleska in western Ukraine (6324 km2).
The Government and Royal Dutch Shell signed a product sharing agreement (PSA) in January 2013. Prior to its signature, the Government has neither arranged for any sort of public participation, nor released the draft of the PSA into the public domain. Both the Government and the company claim they agreed that the PSA shall be confidential and provided for repercussions in case party leaked the conditions of the deal to the public. Regarding the Yuzivska field, the Government has also failed to perform various assessments (including environmental) required by law prior to the signature of the PSA. Neither party has ever published the text of the PSA. Furthermore, in March 2013, the Government classified it as “for official use only,” meaning no citizen or NGO can gain access to the conditions of the deal.
With regard to the Oleska field, only the regional council has published the draft PSA. In this case too, both the Government and Chevron claim the whole text of the PSA (some three hundred pages) is confidential. In August 2013, an environmental assessment of the PSA regarding Oleska field was performed, though no public participation in its course was allowed. The PSA on Oleska field was signed on November 5th, 2013. Its text has also never been published.
Over the last two years, environmental NGOs and the general public has extensively expressed strong concerns about governmental decision to turn to fracking for securing energy needs of the country instead of exploring more sustainable alternatives. Apart from the information campaigns, there were hundreds of protests and a few dozens of lawsuits.
According to the Minister of the Environmental Protection of Ukraine, the PSAs vest investors with exclusive rights to explore and exploit any hydrocarbons on the given gas fields for the next 50 years. From the drafts of the PSAs leaked to the public, it became clear that PSAs also exclude these activities from any normal regulatory control and establish special taxation, environmental and other provisions for the purpose of the activities covered by the PSAs. According to the experts, these rules are less stringent than domestic environmental legislation; many of them are voluntary and thus unenforceable. It has also come to public attention that in both cases some 10% of the governmental share of the profit will go to newly established private companies linked to the highest officials of the state.
Last week, the Governance of Forests Initiative (GFI) at the World Resources Institute launched the revised GFI Indicator Framework, a tool for diagnosing the strengths and weaknesses of forest governance. This new and improved version of the original indicators is the culmination of several years of piloting, research, and revision by the GFI team and its partners.