US House Passes Burma Sanctions Bill That Targets Chevron

The House unanimously passed legislation yesterday that pressures U.S. oil major Chevron Corp. to abandon its investments in Myanmar, formerly Burma, where military rulers have violently cracked down on pro-democracy protests.

The bill would prevent Chevron from taking tax deductions or credits on its investment in the Yadana natural gas field or pipeline.

California-based Chevron has a minority stake in the project following its purchase of Unocal in 2005. The offshore project is a joint venture with Chevron, France's Total, Thailand's PTT and the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise. Chevron has a roughly 28 percent stake in the project.

The Chevron provision is part of a larger Burma sanctions bill approved yesterday -- called the "Block Burmese JADE Act of 2007" -- which aims to halt the flow of Burmese gemstones into the United States through third countries. It also toughens other sanctions.

Chevron has argued against legislation that would pressure it to divest. The company says that through its involvement in the project it supports health, economic development and education programs that benefit tens of thousands of people.

The crackdown by the military junta several months ago resulted in at least 31 dead and over 70 missing, according to a report by a United Nations human rights official who investigated the issue.

A bipartisan Burma sanctions bill introduced in the Senate in late October does not contain language targeting Chevron. In remarks on the floor Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he was hopeful that the Senate would take up the measure in the "very near future." He is a cosponsor.

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