A Serious Setback for Cleaning Up Big Oil

Why the U.S. Needs EITI

Dormant oil drilling rigs, stacked in Dickinson, North Dakota, January 21, 2016. Andrew Cullen / Reuters

In September 2011, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would be implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global effort to clean up the oil, gas, and mining sectors. The goal was to bring transparency and accountability to industries in which mismanagement and corruption too often undermine development, increase poverty, and fuel conflict. Until the U.S. announcement, only developing countries (and Norway) had actually adopted the EITI transparency standard, even though it had been launched by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and was largely financed and overseen by developed countries. Global transparency advocates hailed the United States for taking the lead. And soon after, other developed countries, such as Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, and the United Kingdom joined the United States in announcing their implementation of EITI. In doing so, they made a clear statement: it was important for all countries to participate in the effort to increase transparency in these industries.

Now, the Trump administration is threatening to upend all the progress that has been made to date. It announced on November 2 of last year that the United States would halt its domestic implementation of EITI (known as USEITI). Although the United States will continue its role in setting the global EITI rules, it has refused to adopt the same standards it encourages others to maintain. This means that it is not only undermining its global leadership on this issue, but also depriving Americans of an important transparency tool, one that enables them to hold their government accountable for collecting revenues related to the development of the nation’s resources.


In committing to USEITI, the Obama administration made clear that it was doing so not simply because it might be good for the rest of the world, but also because it was good for the American people. As it noted in a 2011 report, honoring USEITI would “ensure that taxpayers are receiving every dollar due for extraction of

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