It’s not often that the government, companies, and groups like POGO agree on something. It’s even rarer that they work together for an entire year, sharing knowledge and expertise.
That’s why the completion of the U.S. candidacy application to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) International Board is worth celebrating.
Sounds too wonky for a real celebration, right? Let me back up.
EITI is a global effort by governments, companies, and civil society (that’s where POGO comes in) to increase transparency and accountability in natural resources management. The EITI standard requires oil, gas, and mining companies to make public the amount of money they pay to governments for extracting natural resources from public lands. Governments, in turn, publish what they receive, and an independent third party makes sure the numbers match.
The goal is to ensure that citizens get every cent they are owed for natural resources extracted from public lands. The United States collects about $12 billion annually from extractive companies, but we don’t know if there’s more money to be collected, and this has real impacts on communities who use this money for schools, infrastructure, and environmental clean-up.
EITI has been a huge success in other countries, uncovering illicit financial flows and helping to direct money back to the citizens. What’s more, it’s put information into the citizens’ hands via publically available reports required by the EITI standard.
In meetings of the U.S. government, industry, and civil society this year, the three sectors decided to expand EITI’s scope in the United States beyond oil, gas, and coal to include information about hardrock minerals (such as gold, silver, and copper) and renewable energy sources (such as geothermal, solar, and wind). The committee also decided that the U.S. EITI report will include information on the rents, royalties, bonuses, fees, and taxes collected by the Interior Department from all of these industries. And the Interior Department agreed to publically release even more information on the extractive industries.
States and tribes will have the option to get involved in this federal effort, which means more transparency, accountability and, potentially, money for the public.
Ultimately, the U.S. EITI report will help citizens understand how the extractive industries impact their communities, the environment, and the economy. And that sort of sunshine is worth celebrating.