United States: Leading by example

Map from useiti.doi.gov.

A new data portal allows citizens to follow the value of natural resources on US federal lands.

President Obama’s declaration in 2011 that the United States will implement the EITI was a watershed for the EITI. The US became the first G-7 country to implement the EITI and demonstrated a commitment to “practice what they preach” in extractive industry governance.

The US was admitted as a candidate in March 2014, and the first EITI Report is expected by the end of 2015. The US-EITI is already setting an example. Two particular aspects stand out.

Open and transparent governance

First, the US-EITI has one of the most open and transparent multi-stakeholder groups. The MSG has been formed as a “Federal Advisory Committee”, comprised of 21 members and 20 alternates. There are three co-chairs, one from each constituency (government, industry and civil society). Meetings of the MSG are open to the public, including by video and teleconference. Papers for the meetings are made publically available in advance of the meetings via the US-EITI website. This approach embodies the principles of transparency and accountability that are at the heart of the EITI.

Follow the value of US natural resources

Secondly, it has launched a data portal that allows citizens to follow the value of natural resources on federal lands.

The comprehensive disclosures required by the EITI Standard will be made with the first US-EITI Report, which is set to be published by the end of 2015. In the world’s largest oil producer, with one of the world largest mining sectors, this is a substantial undertaking.

But the government is not waiting for the report to demonstrate its commitment to transparency. In December 2014 the US Department of Interior (DoI) launched a data portal which allows the public to study the use of natural resources on federal lands. It includes detailed information on taxes collected from the oil, gas, coal, wind and geothermal industries and how these revenues are put to use. The data portal can be accessed at: http://useiti.doi.gov/

Improving access to natural resource data will be a major focus of the EITI in the next years. Too much of the detailed data is locked in pdf reports, and more work is needed on the development of data standards to make EITI data more accessible and comparable. More EITI countries are making data files available online, and many will be following how the USEITI builds on the DOI portal in 2015.

Speaking about the development of the portal, Paul Mussenden from the USEITI team said: 

"If we focused just on the requirements, and not what the users wanted to see from it there would be a disconnect. Therefore, we spent a lot of time with users and included them in the design process. This helped us to answer the questions that people actually wanted to know."

See a video from a presentation of the portal at the top of the article.