The W.A.N.G.A. Principles
to Make Communities Whole during Fossil Fuel Industry Activities Including Disasters
WE THE PEOPLE FIND THAT:
Increasingly, commercial activities of the oil, coal, tar sands, and natural gas (“fossil fuel”) industry violate the civil and political rights of residents and communities in the area of the activity, and pose a significant threat to worker safety, public health, community well-being, culture, and the environment.
These activities include exploration, development, production, transportation, use, and waste disposal as well as incidents or accidents (“disasters”) that injure health and well-being of people such as pipeline spills, oilrig blowouts, mountain top removal, ground and drinking water contamination, and leaching from tailings impoundments, among others.
The laws of the land that are designed to safeguard worker safety, public health, and the environment and remedy the problems from pollution generated by fossil fuel activities are outdated, based on current science and knowledge, and do not fulfill their mandate. Further, the laws place the burden of proving harm on the people rather than on the fossil fuel industry.
Yet adverse short- and long-term impacts to human health, including mental health, from fossil fuel activities are well known and well established in medical literature. Similarly, adverse impacts to wildlife and the environment from fossil fuel activities are also well known and well established in scientific literature –– as are adverse impacts to community well-being. The costs of these adverse impacts, especially long-term impacts, are largely borne by people, communities, and the environment, not the industry.
Especially in the case of a disaster, the “responsible party,” i.e., the spiller, is legally mandated to be responsible to its shareholders over and above the needs of injured people, communities, and the environment. Promises by the spiller to “make people whole” are mere platitudes –– empty, vague, and not legally enforceable.
Yet governments are instituted to secure the safety, health, and well-being as fundamental rights of people. For all of these reasons, laws and policies that fail to safeguard these rights and the environment from pollution generated by fossil fuel activities are illegitimate and unjust in a democratic society.
IN ACCORDANCE WITH OUR FINDINGS: We establish the W.A.N.G.A. Principles to define what it means to make people and communities whole during adverse impacts from the fossil fuel industry activities.
WE RECOGNIZE & HONOR THE FOLLOWING PRINCIPLES:
Principle 1: Human rights surpass corporate privileges
Human beings have the right to life, liberty, and security of person. We have the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being. The rights of people to health, safety, security, and well-being are greater than the privilege of a corporation to conduct activities that threaten our rights. Any laws and policies that authorize power over the people –– such as laws that recognize constitutional rights of non-living entities such corporations –– are illegitimate and unjust.
Principle 2: Environmental justice and the precautionary approach are necessary to protect human rights
People living in areas where the fossil fuel industry conducts its activities, including nearby areas that may be adversely impacted by these activities such as coastal communities with offshore oilfields, are economically and politically disadvantaged by the fossil fuel industry. In addition to the environmental justice regions already established, these areas will also be designated as environmental justice (EJ) regions under the laws and policies of the land. In an EJ region, people shall require the fossil fuel industry to use a precautionary approach in all of its activities.
A precautionary approach would include, for example, among other things: 1) a full Environmental Impact Statement including all phases of project scope as well as indirect and cumulative effects to humans and the environment; 2) disclosure of information necessary to ensure the safety, health, and integrity of the natural environment; 3) a surety bond under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 with annual inflation-proofing to provide immediate access to response funds after a disaster because the current liability ceiling no longer reflects the scope of harm from large-scale industrial activities; and 4) demonstrated capacity for disaster contingency planning –– with enforceable standards –– to improve prevention and response.
This approach exercises caution as informed prudence and allows people to take protective action in situations where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage and the lack of scientific consensus. These protections can be relaxed only if further findings lead to independent, non-industry funded scientific consensus that no harm will result.
Principle 3: People with the most to lose from fossil fuel industry activities have the right to have a voice in the decisions that put their health, livelihoods, communities, and culture at risk
As a condition of lease sales in an EJ region, a regional citizens’ advisory committee (RCAC) of people from local communities within the EJ region will be established, adopted from the model in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 for Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet in Alaska. The Alaska model has proven effective at improving disaster prevention and response. The RCACs will promote worker safety, public health, community well-being, and environmentally safe operation of fossil fuel industry activities within the EJ region and will inform the public of their work. The RCACs will be funded by lease holders through the federal government’s share of royalties as a cost of the industry doing business.
Principle 4: People have the right to ethical, unbiased monitoring programs
Ethical, unbiased programs are conducted by independent parties (not industry) prior to and during industrial activities. In an EJ region and based on the precautionary approach, the community-based RCAC will work with government, industry and state universities to establish baseline environmental monitoring programs. The RCAC will review proposals and approve studies. Environmental monitoring programs will start up at least one full year prior to exploration activities and continue during the subsequent phases of development. These programs will include monitoring of sentinel wildlife species, comprehensive ecosystem health, and air, water, and soil quality for all chemicals of concern, including products to be used during industrial activities. The RCACs will have authority to ban any products, including ones with proprietary compounds. These programs will be funded by lease holders through the federal government’s share of royalties.
After a disaster, the environmental monitoring program –– now an “ecological restoration program” –– will be funded for at least one decade through fines and penalties from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process. The program will include a Reopener Clause as insurance for additional unanticipated harm, and the RCAC will be party to the decision-making process for the Reopener Clause.
Principle 5: People have the right to ethical, unbiased epidemiology monitoring
Ethical, unbiased epidemiology monitoring programs are conducted by independent parties (not industry) prior to and during industrial activities. In an EJ region, the community-based RCAC will work with government, industry, and state universities to establish baseline epidemiology programs. The RCAC will review proposals and approve studies. Epidemiology programs will start up at least one full year prior to exploration activities and continue during subsequent phases of development. These programs will include monitoring of air, water, and soil quality for chemicals of concern, including products to be used during industrial activities. The RCACs will have authority to ban any products, including ones with proprietary compounds. The programs will be funded by the lease holders through the federal government’s share of royalties.
After a disaster, the epidemiology program –– now an “human restoration program” –– will be funded for at least two decades through a parallel set of fines and penalties for fossil fuel pollution similar to the model for human restoration after hazardous chemicals spills under the Superfund law (CERCLA). The epidemiology program will be designed to include residents and visitors who visit public areas such as beaches or parks within the disaster area. The program will include a Reopener Clause in conjunction with a medical monitoring program as insurance for worker and public health from latent illnesses related to the disaster, and the RCAC will be party to the decision-making process for the Reopener Clause.
Principle 6: Residents and industry workers have to the right to ethical, unbiased, accessible, and adequate health care
In an EJ region, the development phase of industrial activity will start only after the community either: 1) establishes within the region of planned industrial activity a community health clinic staffed with, among others, at least one mental health care professional and at least two OEM (occupational and environmental) doctors who are trained to recognize, diagnose, and treat patients for chemical illnesses and who are not funded by the fossil fuel industry; or 2) staffs the existing community health clinic with at least the three aforementioned health care providers.
Principle 7: Disaster response must include community members as partners of equal authority at the highest level of incident command
In an EJ region during disaster response, the Incident Command must include the RCACs as partners of equal authority to the US Coast Guard, the spiller (“responsible party”), and the state(s) in the decision-making process and with equal access to information and media. Prior to the disaster, the RCACs should be part of the Local Emergency Planning Committees and the Regional Response Teams so the concerns of the local citizens are known and institutionalized as part of the disaster preparedness and response planning. For example, concerns likely to be raised by the RCACs that should be part of disaster response preparation might include, among others: emergency notice procedure for disasters, including an accurate and comprehensive list of substances released; an updated, current inventory of fossil fuels and chemicals involved in industrial activities in the region; a program for training workers and maintaining a trained workforce in advance of a disaster; child care; public health and mental health care including payment; transportation, treatment, and disposal of fossil fuel waste as hazardous material in special (not municipal) landfills; agreement on and establishment of mandatory evacuation areas; evacuation and relocation procedures including compensation; guarantees in contingency planning that demonstrated best available technology worldwide will be used during disaster response; and media access to “safety zones” as a proactive approach to the community’s right-to-know.
Principle 8: Worker safety is a responsibility of Incident Command
After a disaster in an EJ region, the RCACs will advocate worker safety through the Incident Command by engaging an independent team of OEM doctors, toxicologists, and industrial hygienists to promote a properly functioning worker safety program. An effective worker safety program is tightly organized and employs OEM doctors who specialize in work-related injuries and illnesses; trains safety trainers and workers to recognize illness symptoms and to properly handle chemicals of concern; conducts pre-screening physicals, daily monitors response workers during all shifts, and responds rapidly to minimize health problems. Using a precautionary approach, fossil fuel industry disaster response is treated as a hazardous waste cleanup with all safety trainers and workers trained accordingly, provided with necessary personal protective gear, and monitored to ensure the gear is used and effective. Further, all work-related illnesses including cold/flu symptoms are reported to the spiller and the RCAC; and the RCAC must conduct a long-term health monitoring on workers. If the results of the long-term monitoring study find work-related illnesses in five or ten years, then the “responsible party” must notify all former response workers of their eligibility to receive compensation from a surety bond established at the time of the disaster and held in escrow for this purpose.
Principle 9: Cost of area closures, evacuation, and relocation are borne by industry
After a disaster in an EJ region, costs of any mandatory evacuations and relocations will be borne by the responsible party. Homes or businesses within the evacuation zone that are determined to be unsafe by the Incident Command, including the RCAC, will be bought by the responsible party at fair market price based on pre-disaster appraisals. Any post-disaster appraisers must be approved by the RCAC. If public health issues arise in homes or businesses outside the mandatory evacuation zone within a ten year period from the disaster, based on the human restoration program or other studies conducted by the RCAC and community health clinic, the responsible party may have to pay relocation costs, or a portion of costs, as determined by an arbitration process. Further, the responsible party will pay dismantling, removal, and restoration costs for contaminated buildings and restoration costs for land. Contaminated buildings, land, or other property purchased by the responsible party may not be treated as investments and sold or leased for profit; property may only be converted into public parks or conservation easements once decontaminated.
Principle 10: Sovereign tribal nations may chose to fulfill the roles and responsibility of the RCAC
If there are sovereign tribal nations within an EJ region, the tribal government may choose to fulfill the roles and responsibilities of the RCAC as described above. This does not preclude formation of an RCAC in addition to the tribal government’s program to promote worker safety, public health, community well-being, and environmentally safe operation of fossil fuel industry activities within the EJ region and informing tribe members of their work. As for the RCAC, the tribal government’s program will be funded by lease holders through the federal government’s share of royalties as a cost of the industry doing business.
Principle 11: Pre-existing fossil fuel industry activities in EJ regions will comply with these principles
In EJ regions with pre-existing fossil fuel industry activities, the federal government will fund startup and operation of programs, including the RCACs and/or tribal government, with a share of its revenues from industrial activities within one year of the time these principles are adopted by communities, tribes, or the federal government.
NOW THEREFORE WE, THE PEOPLE DEMAND THAT:
The President of the United States recognizes and validates by Executive Order the W.A.N.G.A. Principles and notifies the federal agencies to comply with this order in all future lease sales involving fossil fuel activities. In EJ regions with pre-existing fossil fuel industry activities, the federal government will fund startup and operation of programs, including the RCACs, with a share of its revenues from industrial activities within 12 months of the time these principles are adopted by communities, tribes, or the federal government.
Further we request that violation of any W.A.N.G.A. Principles will result in fines and penalties. Noncompliance will result in immediate revocation of operating permits in the area of the violation, loss of government contracts for the offender for at least 12 months, and revocation of the right to receive federal financial assistance including tax write-offs and subsidies. Noncompliance during a disaster response will result in removal of the responsible party from Incident Command and seizure of corporate assets to fund response operations including the W.A.N.G.A. Principles.
The federal government will recognize the rights of any community and tribal governments within EJ regions to adopt the W.A.N.G.A. Principles separately from, or in lieu of, the federal government.