The government's major financing agencies for overseas development projects reversed direction Friday, committing to scrutinize fossil-fuel facilities for their effect on global warming and pledging to help build renewable energy plants abroad.
The decision was revealed in settlement agreements filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in a lawsuit brought by two environmental groups, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, against the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corp. in 2002.
The environmental groups were joined by three California cities -- Santa Monica, Oakland and Arcata -- along with Boulder, Colo. The cities argued that carbon dioxide spewed into the atmosphere by such U.S.-financed projects as oil refineries and gas pipelines in India or Russia affect the Earth's climate. And global warming, the suit argued, influences Santa Monica's water supply, the sea level near Oakland's airport and the snow on Rocky Mountain ski slopes.
From 1995 to 2006, the Ex-Im Bank and OPIC provided more than $21 billion in loans and loan guarantees for oil refineries, pipeline projects, liquefied natural gas plants and electric power plants around the world, according to a Times investigation in 2007. An analysis of a sample of 48 projects in Russia, Mexico, Venezuela, Algeria, China, Brazil, Turkey and India found that they would emit 12 billion metric tons of planet-heating carbon dioxide emissions over their lifetime, or at least 600 million metric tons a year.