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
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail