U.S. Agency to Vote on Controversial ENRON/Shell Pipeline Through Rare Tropical Wilderness in Bolivia Lawmakers, Scientists, and Environmental Organizations Warn OPIC: Pipeline Violates U.S. Law and Devastates Primary Tropical Forest Opponents Rally i

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Washington - On June 15, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) will meet to consider whether to provide $200 million in financing – backed by U.S. tax dollars – for ENRON’s proposed Bolivia-Cuiaba gas pipeline project. The pipeline will bisect one of the World’s largest intact tropical forests. Dozens of lawmakers, environmental and conservation groups will rally outside OPIC’s headquarters on Tuesday calling on the agency to uphold its environmental standards and to deny financing for the project.

A briefing and rally will be held outside the OPIC building on 1100 New York Ave at 12:30 p.m. featuring scientists from World Wildlife Fund and other environmental organizations who remain unanimous in their opposition to the current pipeline route. At 1:30 p.m., OPIC’s board of directors will convene to consider the project. Due to the international outcry, twice now OPIC’s board of directors have delayed vote on the project. In recent weeks, OPIC board members have been seen a flood of calls, letters, and meetings regarding this project.

"Given the serious environmental implications of the Bolivian gas project and the existence of alternative and less-harmful routes, we urge OPIC to uphold its new environmental policies and only fund projects that ensure prudent use of U.S. taxpayer dollars," said Congressman George Miller, who initiated a letter signed by 25 members of Congress last week urging OPIC to deny support for the project.

Pursuant to the Foreign Assistance Act and its recently adopted environmental policies, OPIC is prohibited from funding infrastructure and extractive projects located in primary tropical forests or projects causing significant and unreasonable harm to the environment.

The Chiquitano forest is a relatively undisturbed area that has been designated by scientists as a Global 200 site – the richest and rarest examples of Earth’s diverse habitats. Independent environmental assessments conducted by scientific organizations confirm the presence of rare tropical forest. OPIC staff maintains that the Chiquitano is a secondary forest and therefore not applicable to OPIC’s policy.

ENRON and Shell are offering five conservation groups – including World Wildlife Fund – large sums for conservation programs in the region. Although conservation groups favor the establishment of the fund, they maintain their position that OPIC should not finance the project through primary forest and that the route should be changed.

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