H.Con.Res. 121 (112th): Expressing the sense of Congress that as one of the world’s important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems, ...

...the Niger Delta should be protected and its recovery and economic development a priority.

112th Congress, 2011–2013. Text as of Apr 27, 2012 (Introduced).

Status & Summary | PDF | Source: GPO

IV

112th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. CON. RES. 121

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

April 27, 2012

(for himself and Mr. Fortenberry) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs

CONCURRENT RESOLUTION

Expressing the sense of Congress that as one of the world’s important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems, the Niger Delta should be protected and its recovery and economic development a priority.

Whereas Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, its largest producer of oil and its second largest economy, is a major source of United States oil imports and a key ally in the region;

Whereas despite its extensive hydrocarbon resources, which account for 80 percent of government revenues, Nigeria faces serious social and economic challenges, including extreme income inequality and high unemployment rates;

Whereas Nigeria’s economic growth rate is among the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, but its human development indicators remain low, with more than half the population living on less than $1 a day;

Whereas the International Monetary Fund reports that progress on Nigerian efforts to meet Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty has been slow;

Whereas successive governments have pursued ambitious reforms since the country’s return to civilian rule and through such efforts Nigeria was deemed compliant with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2011;

Whereas Nigeria’s southern Niger Delta region has been the backbone of Nigeria’s economy in recent decades, with oil and gas extraction there accounting for over 95 percent of Nigeria’s export earnings;

Whereas despite having the largest natural gas reserves in Africa, an estimated one-third of Nigerian natural gas is burned during oil drilling due to a lack of infrastructure, placing the country second in the world, after Russia, in gas flaring, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association;

Whereas deadlines for oil companies to stop flaring gas at oil wells, estimated at roughly one-third of annual production and $2,500,000,000 in lost revenue, have repeatedly been postponed, most recently to December 2012;

Whereas the Niger Delta is well-endowed with other natural resources beyond hydrocarbons, including water, timber and other forest resources, wildlife, and various species of aquatic organisms, and the Niger Delta is one of the world’s largest wetlands;

Whereas oil production in the Delta has caused significant harm to the area's fragile riverine ecosystem and to the livelihoods of the region’s inhabitants, 30,000,000 inhabitants, including minority ethnic groups like Ogoni, who have received international attention for their efforts to highlight the extensive environmental damage;

Whereas by some estimates, over 500,000,000 gallons of oil, nearly the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill every year for 50 years, have been spilled in the Niger Delta since oil production began in Nigeria, limiting locals’ access to clean water and largely destroying fishing stocks, while gas flares from the oil wells contribute to acid rain and air pollution;

Whereas oil contamination in Ogoniland is widespread, according to a study conducted by the United Nations Environment Program, with wells used for drinking water measuring high levels of carcinogens;

Whereas for example of most immediate concern, community members at Nisisioken Ogale in Ogoni land are drinking water from wells that are contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen, at levels over 900 times above the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline;

Whereas the study determined that it may take 25 to 30 years to restore the environment;

Whereas Nigeria's oil wealth has also contributed to long-standing political tensions, protest, and criminality in the Delta, feeding recruitment by various vigilante and armed groups and hindering both oil production and regional development;

Whereas corruption and nonrespect for rule of law at multiple levels of government, business, environmental oversight, and community relations, is the number one cause that permeates the activities of the Niger Delta that cause problems to remain unsolved, regardless of the verbal pledges and recriminations that occur on an ongoing basis;

Whereas in 2009, Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua extended an offer of amnesty to Delta militants, pledging pardons and rehabilitation in exchange for disarmament and demobilization, and, by Government of Nigeria estimates, almost 20,200 self-declared militants accepted the offer and demobilized, bringing relative calm to the region and allowing oil output to increase;

Whereas the Presidential Amnesty and rehabilitation program, which includes job training and social reintegration for ex-militants, offers a new opportunity for peace in the restive region, provided that the Government of Nigeria delivers on promised infrastructure improvements and job creation;

Whereas the United States has been supportive of the Government of Nigeria’s reform initiatives, including not only the programs to promote peace and development in the Niger Delta, but also anticorruption efforts, economic and electoral reforms, and energy sector privatization; and

Whereas in 2010, the United States and Nigeria established the United States-Nigeria Binational Commission, a strategic dialogue to address issues of mutual concern: Now, therefore, be it

That it is the sense of Congress that—

(1)

as one of the world’s important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems, the Niger Delta should be protected and its recovery and economic development a priority;

(2)

all the stakeholders in the Niger Delta oil and gas industry, the Nigerian federal, state, and local governments, oil and gas companies, and other private sector actors, civil society, and the local community, including youth, women, and faith-based leaders, with input from the United States Government when requested, should work together to collectively address the environmental impact of oil and gas production in the Niger Delta by—

(A)

urgently providing relief and assistance to those affected by oil spills in the region;

(B)

urgently ensuring that oil pollution is cleaned up as a matter of urgency, in line with international good practice, and subject to independent verification, and take all necessary steps to prevent further oil spills by equipment failure, sabotage, oil bunkering, or illegal refining;

(C)

enforcing zero tolerance policy on corruption;

(D)

respecting and adhering to the rule of law as a fundamental requirement of all players in regards to operations, oversight and involvement in the activities, governance, business, environmental protection, and citizens’ engagement and entitlements with respect to the Niger Delta;

(E)

ensuring robust, independent, and coordinated monitoring of the petroleum industry;

(F)

establishing a committee to monitor the environmental and social impact of the oil industry, hold regular sessions on the activities of multinational companies in the Niger Delta, discuss any impact of their practices, and make recommendations on how to address them;

(G)

promoting investments in the region that contribute to job creation for the Delta’s underemployed youth and provide alternative livelihoods for those affected by oil pollution;

(H)

developing an effective and comprehensive plan to prevent any further oil spills, in line with United Nations Environment Program recommendations, that is fully consistent with Nigeria’s human rights’ obligations and in consultation with affected communities and be implemented transparently with local communities’ full and active participation;

(I)

developing an action plan to address illegal oil trade, bunkering, and building a stronger Gulf of Guinea Energy and Security Strategy (GGESS) to tackle the cause, crime, and violence in the Niger Delta and the entire region; and

(J)

conducting a campaign to—

(i)

end corruption and illegal oil related activities by including an awareness component highlighting the dis­pro­por­tion­ate environmental footprint of artisanal refining and design training, employment, and livelihood incentives that will encourage people away from participating in this illegal activity; and

(ii)

educate the community on the public safety, risk, and danger in drinking contaminated water;

(3)

the international oil and gas companies with operations in the Niger Delta region should—

(A)

make a clear public commitment to addressing pollution and its human rights’ impacts, promptly, transparently, and in consultation with key stakeholders, particularly affected communities; and

(B)

improve the control, maintenance, and decommissioning of oilfield infrastructure and apply industry best practices and international standards for public safety;

(4)

the United States Government should—

(A)

increase engagement with, and support of, the Government of Nigeria to ensure independent oversight of the oil industry and to increase access to effective remedy for people whose rights are affected by oil operations in the Niger Delta;

(B)

increase engagement with, and support of, the Government of Nigeria in improving access to effective remedy for people whose rights are affected by oil operations in the Niger Delta;

(C)

assist the Government of Nigeria to implement the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in depth Ogoniland oil assessment report which provides clear operational recommendations for addressing the widespread oil pollution across Ogoniland; and

(D)

assist the Government of Nigeria in tackling illegal oil trade, bunkering, and building a stronger Gulf of Guinea Energy and Security Strategy (GGESS); and

(5)

the Government of Nigeria should—

(A)

establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate companies’ compliance with environmental legislation and regulations in the Niger Delta, assess actual losses, make recommendations for improving compliance with Nigerian regulations, and report publicly on all findings;

(B)

ensure enforcement of the national and international regulatory system and impose effective penalties when regulations are not followed;

(C)

ensure that Nigerian petroleum regulations address the social and human rights’ impacts of the oil industry and include an assessment of the potential impacts on human health, including access to clean water and livelihoods, meaningful consultation with communities, and greater transparency and access to information for affected communities;

(D)

amend laws on compensation to ensure that any sums awarded are fair and adequate, and cover long-term impacts, health issues, and all other reasonable damages;

(E)

amend the laws regulating the petroleum industry to ensure that they address the social and human rights’ impacts of the industry, that they include a mandatory assessment of the potential impacts on human health and that environmental regulations are clarified to enhance the remediation process;

(F)

make public information about the impact of oil operations on the environment and human rights, to include companies’ oil spill contingency plans, the Niger Delta Environmental Survey, and all information regarding oil spills, any environmental impact assessments related to oil companies’ infrastructure and operations, the Environmental Evaluation Report, and any post impact assessments;

(G)

encourage the Nigerian Parliament to pass the Petroleum Energy Bill that increases transparency, establishes a fair sharing mechanism for oil and gas revenues with federal, oil-producing countries, protects the environment with better wetland conservation, encourages the use of clean technology equipment, allows diversification of energy production, and builds the region’s sustainable economy; and

(H)

arrest and prosecute those involved in corrupted, illegal, and oil bunkering activities and artisanal refineries.