Watchdog Group Says Lack Of Transparency Will Hurt Oil And Gas

In a new report, Transparency International argues that 2017 has been a "very bad year" for public scrutiny of the oil and gas industry due to the heightened presence of special interests in the U.S. government.

"It's been a very bad year for transparency in the energy and mining sector," Zoë Reiter, project lead at the human rights group, said.

The watchdog group suggested that Florida’s apparent exemption from a national fossil fuel drilling plan in favor of protecting the state’s tourism industry constituted a serious concern for the electorate. Some 90 percent of the outer U.S. shelf is set to be opened up to drillers as part of President Trump’s strategy for energy independence and dominance.

"Americans are all too aware of the undue influence of money and politics and that many policy and resource allocation choices are not necessarily made in the public interest but rather special interests," Reiter told UPI. "The special need to exclude Florida but no other coastal states makes no sense to many of us."

Florida’s two Senators, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson, both opposed the Trump administration’s proposal to open almost all U.S. coastal waters for lease sales. Following the announcement in January, Rubio asked Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke "to recognize the Florida Congressional delegation's bipartisan efforts to maintain and extend the moratorium in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and remove this area for future planning purposes."

While Zinke publicly vowed to cater to the Senators’ request, later congressional testimony revealed that the areas were still under consideration for inclusion under the draft leasing bill.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s previous tenure as CEO of ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) is another point of concern, Transparency International says. Tillerson formerly worked for the American Petroleum Institute in its fight against the Dodd-Frank Act’s disclosure requirements for funds paid to foreign countries.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for

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