In the name of job creation and clean energy, the Obama administration has doled out billions of dollars in stimulus money to some of the nationâ€™s biggest polluters and granted them sweeping exemptions from the most basic form of environmental oversight, a Center for Public Integrity investigation has found.
Even a project at BPâ€™s maligned refinery in Texas City, Tex. â€” owner of the oil industryâ€™s worst safety record and site of a deadly 2005 explosion, as well as a benzene leak earlier this year â€” secured a waiver for the preliminary phase of a carbon capture and sequestration experiment involving two companies with past compliance problems. The primary firm has since dropped out of the project before it could advance to the second phase.Â
Agency officials who granted the exemptions told the Center that they do not have time in most cases to review the environmental compliance records of stimulus recipients, and do not believe past violations should affect pollutersâ€™ chances of winning stimulus money or the NEPA exclusions.
The so-called â€œstimulusâ€ funding came from the $787-billion legislation officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed in February 2009.
Documents obtained by the Center show the administration has devised a speedy review process that relies on voluntary disclosures by companies to determine whether stimulus projects pose environmental harm. Corporate polluters often omitted mention of health, safety, and environmental violations from their applications. In fact, administration officials told the Center they chose to ignore companiesâ€™ environmental compliance records in making grant decisions and issuing NEPA exemptions, saying they considered such information irrelevant.