Washington, DC — The U.S. Agency for International Development has missed its fifth consecutive deadline for reporting to Congress about proposed multi-lateral development bank projects that may have adverse impacts on the environment, public health or indigenous populations, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
USAID is statutorily required to report to Congress twice a year (by June 30th and December 31st) concerning potential negative effects of proposed projects pending before international lending institutions, such as the World Bank. Under a law commonly called the "Pelosi Amendment," after its author, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the U.S. delegations to these multi-lateral development banks are forbidden from supporting any financial aid to projects that have not undergone environmental review if those actions will have a significant impact on the environment.
The primary agency charged with monitoring this environmental compliance and reporting to the Congress and the public is USAID but its December 31, 2004 report is still under review by the Treasury Department, in particular Under Secretary for International Affairs John Taylor, who is now a potential Bush nominee to head the World Bank. Taylor's staff has routinely delayed or blocked past USAID reports.
"The U.S. is not supposed to sit back and wait for humanitarian crises before it acts," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "Our laws direct us to plan in advance so as to minimize unnecessary destruction of resources, displacement of native peoples and loss of life."
In September 2002, USAID removed its sole analyst overseeing environmental compliance in multi-national development bank projects. Since that time, USAID has issued only one environmental evaluation report. As a result of Treasury and USAID resistance to the law –
- Nearly half the money loaned by multilateral development banks, including loans for projects such as timber, coal and oil extraction, received no published environmental assessment at all;
- Reviews are often completed after-the-fact, with little consideration of alternatives, and are not readily available to native populations or outside groups; and
- Many reviews are incomplete and do not meet the standards of the statute and regulations. As a consequence, unnecessarily destructive projects in Asia, Africa and South America are improperly receiving U.S. support.
In 2004, Congress approved language asking Treasury and USAID to brief the Appropriations Committees on fulfilling their longstanding unfulfilled reporting duties. These briefings have yet to be scheduled. In the omnibus appropriations bill passed in the lame duck session this November, Congress reinforced the requirements for environmental assessments of any proposal by the World Bank or any of the regional development banks that would have a significant environmental impact, but it is not clear whether Congress will take additional steps to address these problems when it considers long-term legislation authorizing funds for the World Bank this spring.
"The laws that require us to practice preventive international medicine are becoming dead letters," Ruch added.