FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bush’s Choice for Energy Czar is One of Texas’s Worst Polluters

In the bizarro world that President Bush lives in, it pays-literally-to be a miserable failure, a criminal and a corporate con man. Those are just some of the characteristics of the dastardly men and women who were tapped recently to fill the vacancies in Bush’s second-term cabinet.

But one of the President’s most outrageous decisions (besides naming Alberto Gonzales, who concocted a legal case for torturing foreign prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, Attorney General) has got to be choosing 66 year-old Sam Bodman to serve as Secretary of Energy. This is a guy who for a dozen years ran a Texas-based chemical company that spent years on the top five lists of the country’s worst polluters.

It’s not just a few clouds of smoke emanating from an oil refinery or a power plant that got Bodman’s old company, Boston-based Cabot Corporation, those accolades. It was the 54,000 tons of toxic emissions that his company’s refineries released into the air in the Lone Star state in 1997 alone that made Cabot the fourth largest source of toxic emissions in Texas. Cabot is the world’s largest producer of industrial carbon black, a byproduct of the oil refinery process.

In 2000, the year Bodman left Cabot to join the Bush administration as Deputy Commerce Secretary, Cabot accounted for 60,000 of the more than half-a-million tons of toxic emissions released into the Texas air, according to report by the Texas State Summary of Emissions.

A loophole created in the 1972 Texas Clean Air Act exempted or “grandfathered” industrial plants built before 1971 from new, stricter pollution control rules. But in the mid-1990s companies such as Cabot were supposed to curb the pollution coming from its refineries. Environmentalists demanded that then Gov. Bush rein in the polluters and close the so-called grandfather loophole as the air in Texas became smoggier.

Instead, in 1997, then Gov. Bush asked two oil company executives to outline a voluntary program that allowed the grandfathered polluters to decide on their own exactly how much to cut the pollution at their plants. The oil execs summoned a meeting of two dozen industry reps at Exxon offices in Houston and presented them with the program.

In a memo obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, one executive wrote that “clearly the insiders from oil and gas believe that the Governor’s office will ‘persuade’ the (Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission) to accept what program is developed between the industry group and the Governor’s Office.”

“And they did. And two years later this joke of a program was enacted into law by a bill written by the general counsel for the Texas Chemical Council who also lobbies for energy and utility companies. The bill was denounced by newspapers across the state,” according to a March 5, 2000 report in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

According to people familiar with the legislation, Sam Bodman was part of the original working group that drafted legislation that then Gov. Bush signed into law that basically permitted Cabot and other companies to continue to emit the same level-and in some cases more-toxic emissions as they had been years earlier without so much as receiving a slap-on-the-wrist by then Gov. Bush.

Bodman personally contributed $1,000 to Bush’s presidential campaign and $20,000 to Republican committees in the 1999-2000 election. Bodman is the wealthiest member of the Bush administration. His net worth is estimated to be between $42 million and $164 million, the bulk of it in Cabot stock, deferred compensation and other benefits.
Bodman shoddy environmental record aside, he may also be complicit in one of Africa’s deadliest wars.

In October 2002, Bodman’s former company came under fire when a United Nations Panel of Experts produced a report accusing the company, along with several other US corporations, of helping to fuel the wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) while he ran Cabot by purchasing coltan from Congo during the conflict and illegally plundering the country’s vast natural resources.

Cabot has publicly denied the allegations in the UN report, but a report by the Belgian Senate states that Eagle Wings Resources International had a long-term contract to supply Cabot with coltan, which it too purchased from Congo during the war. Eagle Wings was also identified in the UN report as contributing to the war.

In response, environmental Friend of the Earth United States (FOE) and the UK-based human rights group Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) filed a complaint with the US State Department last August against Cabot and several other western corporations for its role in aiding the rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo by conducting business there, essentially inadvertently aiding a violent conflict that contributed to widespread human rights abuses.

RAID and FOE filed a complaint with the U.S. State Department last August claiming Cabot and other western corporations having violated the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) “Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises,” a set of international standards for responsible corporate behavior.

The UN panel said in its report that a “three-year investigation found that sophisticated “elite networks” of high-level political, military and businesspersons, in collaboration with various rebel groups, intentionally fueled the conflict in order to retain control over the country’s vast natural resources. The Panel implicated many Western companies for directly or indirectly helping to fuel the war.”

The State Department is the agency in charge of deciding whether US companies breach the OECD guidelines. Despite the allegations included in the UN report and the complaint filed by the two activist groups, the State Department has refused to launch an independent investigation into whether Cabot, under Bodman’s leadership, and the other US companies might have contributed to the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the UN report, an increase in the export of columbo tantalite, otherwise known as coltan from which the metal tantalum is extracted, in 1999 and 2000 resulted in “a sharp increase in the world prices of tantalumleading to a large increase in coltan production in eastern DRCWhile the processors of coltan and other Congolese minerals in Asia, Europe and North America may not have been aware of what was happening in the DRC, the Panel’s investigations uncovered such serious concerns that it was decided to raise the international business community’s awareness”

Cabot is the world’s largest refiner of coltan. The other US corporations identified in the UN report, Kemet and Vishay, both purchase processed tantalum from Cabot. Under Bodman’s leadership an unknown amount of the coltan Cabot Corporation was purchasing could have originated from the DRC. Cabot Corporation has stated publicly that “to the best of its knowledge none [of its coltan came] from environmentally sensitive areas in Africa, but it can’t be sure.”

As Energy Secretary, Bodman will be looking out for the energy behemoths he used to commiserate with while he was chairman and chief executive of Cabot, Vice President Dick Cheney being one of them. Many of those energy corporations have donated millions to fund President Bush’s inaugural parties. And Cheney wants Bodman to reward their pals by making a convincing case why the President’s controversial energy policy should sail through Congress, the environment be damned.

JASON LEOPOLD is the author of the forthcoming book Off the Record: An Investigative Journalist’s Inside View of Dirty Politics, Corporate Scandal, and a Double Life Exposed (Rowman & Littlefield). He can be reached at jasonleopold@hotmail.com. Visit his website at www.jasonleopold.com

More articles by:

JASON LEOPOLD is the former Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires where he spent two years covering the energy crisis and the Enron bankruptcy. He just finished writing a book about the crisis, due out in December through Rowman & Littlefield. He can be reached at: jasonleopold@hotmail.com

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail