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23 Jun 2021

Laurel Neme and Jeffrey Barbee, National Geographic

US Members of Congress call for investigation into ReconAfrica's Okavango oil exploration project

"Members of Congress urge investigation into Okavango oil exploration", 23 June 2021

Two members of the United States Congress have sent a plea to the secretary of state, the attorney general, and other top officials urging a “thorough and coordinated investigation” into concerns raised by a series of National Geographic articles about oil and gas exploration in southern Africa’s spectacular and delicate Okavango region.

The Canadian-based oil company Reconnaissance Energy Africa (ReconAfrica) has licenses to explore in a 13,200-square-mile area in Namibia and Botswana, including part of the vital watershed of the Okavango Delta, one of the largest inland deltas in the world...

...In the letter dated June 16, 2021, and shared with National Geographic, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican, cite five articles by National Geographic during the past nine months as source material for their call for an investigation...

...ReconAfrica representatives did not comment on the lawmakers’ call for a U.S. government investigation...

...If the U.S. government were to find evidence of wrongdoing, it could result in fines against the company, criminal charges against the individuals involved, or a halt of trading for its U.S. share sales.

“Suggestions of inadequate environmental impact studies and consultations with local communities” are major concerns, the Democratic senator and Republican congressman say in their letter.

Leahy and Fortenberry assert that the U.S. has an interest in protecting the Okavango Delta under the Defending Economic Livelihoods and Threatened Animals (DELTA) Act, which became law in 2018, to safeguard this ecologically, culturally, and economically important part of the world.

“International corporations operating in this region of Africa should work collaboratively with local communities and be held to global environmental standards,” says Fortenberry, co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus, author of the DELTA Act, and member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. “Africa is not a frontier to be exploited. This area, in particular, is one of the most unique and pristine ecosystems in the world. It is irreplaceable and needs guardrails for sustainable activity.”...