2012 Highlights: 10 Reasons why we need to keep fighting Big Oil

Photo credit: Mother Jones

ONE staffers look back on some of the highlights of our advocacy efforts in 2012, and ahead to 2013

In January, we started off the new year with information that Big Oil was putting pressure on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to water down their forthcoming rule to implement of the Cardin-Lugar law (Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act).

This pressure had caused a year-long delay in implementation to produce the data that would help communities around the world hold their governments accountable for revenues and delivery of public services like schools and hospitals.

ONE and our partners acted immediately, and launched an intense public awareness campaign to counter the pressure of the corporate lawyers on the SEC. And 143,000 ONE members signed up to urge the SEC not to allow themselves to be bullied by the oil industry. We asked them to instead to faithfully implement the law as Congress directed.

And then on August 22nd, in an auditorium filled with corporate lawyers and development activists, waiting with baited breath to learn whether secrecy or transparency would carry the day, the SEC Commissioners voted 2-1 to pass a rule that was mostly consistent with the intent of Congress and our coalition’s position.  And the SEC recognized the unexpected level of public interest in rule, referencing the 143,000 petition signers.

The release of the rule meant the US had laid a new foundation for transparency in the extractives sector. This put us in a much stronger position in the 27-member European Union, where our European PWYP Coalition and ONE members are engaged in another battlefront to secure the adoption of similar laws.

Then in October, some oil companies, using American Petroleum Institute (API) as a front, launched a lawsuit against the SEC in both the District and Appeals’ Court, to undo the rule – which would effectively kill the Cardin-Lugar law, and with it the US global leadership in extractives transparency.

The good news is that the SEC delivered a decisive smack downof API’s request to stay, or stop implementation of, the Cardin-Lugar rule, pending the outcome of the case. The SEC has also got their best lawyers working to defend the rule. In addition, Oxfam America successfully filed a motion in the courts to become a co-defender of the rule with the SEC. The legal process is already underway and the defense briefs are due January 2, 2013.

So much is at stake for the world poorest people living in resource-rich developing countries and US leadership in transparency and good governance. So, if the oil industry won’t stop fighting, we can’t either. But we should not be discouraged. Even though Cardin-Lugar will be litigated in in January 2013, we have made significant progress over where we were in January 2012. We scored two victories in countering the pressure of the oil industry on the SEC, and getting a rule released – and thus, a policy that is already being emulated by the EU.

And since it’s that time of the year when we make list of the Top 10 lists of hits, movies, scandals, fascinating people etc., here are MY top 10 reasons why we need to keep fighting next year to protect and expand extractives transparency worldwide.

Top 10 reasons to keep fighting for global extractives transparency


10. Because sunshine is the best antiseptic.


9. Because in the current global economic crisis, development programs face potentially devastating cuts and we must help unleash more domestic resources to self-fund development.


8. History has shown that David can beat Goliath. Citizen advocacy can overcome corporate pressure.


7. We all know that they say about staying the course and finishing the job…


6. When you fight corruption, corruption fights back.


5. People think it’s hard to keep secrets, but extractives payments have too long been well-kept secrets – of dictators and kleptocrats, at the expense of millions of lives.


4. Because two out of three isn’t always enough. Transparency won over secrecy in Congress, it won at the SEC and now it must win in court.


3. Change can be hard, changing the world can be very hard.


2. If Cardin-Lugar is held up in the District and Appellate courts and the European process goes through, we can cheer “28 countries down, only 168 countries to go.”


1. Because natural resources should be a blessing, not a curse.

The list can go on and on. So please do share in the comment box more reasons why ONE members and our partners should keep up the fight for transparency.