NGOs criticize BP for failing to attend a public discussion about its controversial Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline in the Caspian region.

This morning the Public Eye on Davos hosted a public panel about the social, environmental and human rights impacts of the multi-billion dollar Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. This project would tap off-shore oil Caspian resources in Azerbaijan and transfer them through Georgia and Turkey to Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea. The U.S. administration-supported project, which would trigger $14 billion of investment in Caspian oil and gas development, would have the effect of decreasing Russian and Iranian influence on Caspian resources.

John Browne, CEO of BP, the lead sponsor of the project, has declared that the pipeline will be economically viable only with the support of “free public money” from international financial institutions, such as the World Bank Group and export credit agencies. The intergovernmental agreement governing the project overrides all national legislation in the three host countries except for the national Constitutions. By signing these contracts under corporate pressure, the three countries have effectively abrogated their executive and legislative abilities to protect their citizens from the pipeline’s potential environmental damage and associated health and safety risks.

In light of harsh criticism from affected communities and international groups, BP is facing difficulties in arranging the financing for the controversial project, and Lord John Browne did not accept the invitation by the Public Eye to speak on the panel. The company is trying to establish a behind-closed-doors dialogue with London-based groups from its headquarters in London, but is avoiding public confrontations on major public concerns regarding the pipeline.

‘It is a quite disappointing that BP is not willing to accept a public debate in western countries with concerned groups from the region,’ said Keti Guiaraidze from Green Alternative in Georgia. ‘We saw how BP directly interfered with internal political affairs in Georgia during the environmental licensing process for the project. Locally affected communities are becoming more and more suspicious that the pipeline might really benefit ”local elites/the sponsors”, and doubt that BP and its partners will be able to stick to their development promises’.

Commenting on the atmosphere within the WEF, BP Chairman Peter Sutherland noted the ‘sadness’ spreading in the congress centre over the current global economic and political situation. ‘BP should also face the sadness in the Caspian region from oil investments that have never produced real development benefits for local people,’ stated Antonio Tricarico from Campaign to reform the World Bank in Italy.

‘BP is scared to face a debate about the outrageous conditions which were imposed on host governments that signed the project agreement. This a clear example of corporate colonisation which will increasingly generate mistrust in oil companies’ behaviour’.

Kety Gujaraidze, Green Alternative for the Georgian Republic:
mobile: ++995 32 99947054

Antonio Tricarico, Reform the World Bank Campaign, Italy:
mobile: ++39 328 8485448