About Us

Crude Accountability is an environmental and human rights nonprofit organization that works with communities in the Caspian and Black Sea regions, who battle threats to local natural resources and the negative impacts on their health. Crude Accountability works on the local, national, regional, and international levels in partnership with active communities and organizations committed to a just and environmentally sustainable world. Based in Alexandria, Virginia, Crude Accountability also collaborates with environmental organizations in the United States working on similar issues.

Crude Accountability does not accept funding from the petroleum industry. All of our funding comes from individuals and private foundations.

Staff and Board

Crude Accountability is a consensus-driven organization that is committed to environmental and social justice and to the protection of the Caspian Sea. Crude Accountability was created to implement social change, and is committed to the principles of transparency, community-based activity, and a grassroots approach to social and environmental change. In addition to treating partners and colleagues with respect, Crude Accountability strives to be progressive, equitable and socially conscious in its internal operations and in the actions of its staff and board.

Crude Accountability Staff

Image shows the headshot of director Kate Watters Kate Watters, Co-founder & Executive Director

Kate manages the organization’s programmatic and organizational development as well as working as Crude Accountability’s lead campaigner.  She has led a wide variety of trainings and workshops for environmental activists throughout the former Soviet Union, including air monitoring, human rights awareness and popular epidemiology.  She has also trained local activists to understand compliance and accountability mechanisms at the World Bank.  Kate has been working with environmental activists in the former Soviet Union (FSU) since the early 1990s, has traveled extensively throughout the region and speaks fluent Russian. She has published numerous articles on civil society and the environmental movement in Central Asia and the Caspian region.  Kate has an MA in Russian Area Studies from Georgetown University, and a BA in Russian literature from UMASS-Amherst.                   

Picture1Elena Sorokina, Communications and Research Director

Elena has a M.A. in Media Studies from Syracuse University where she received a scholarship for contribution to free speech and The First Amendment program. At Syracuse University, Elena specialized in studying press and government relations, online activism and non-profit communications. She also served at The Tully Center for Free Speech at the Newhouse School for Public Communications. She holds a degree in Journalism from Moscow State University where she studied Business Journalism and Media Management. In Russia, Elena worked as a journalist for various Russian and international news outlets and volunteered for election monitoring campaigns. Her reporting was recognized by The Paul Khlebnikov Fund that supports young democracy-oriented Russian journalists. Prior to journalism and communications work, Elena participated in the Future Leaders Exchange program in Oregon that sparked her interest in non-profits and environmental organizations.

Mariel Kieval, Communications Coordinator

Mariel is a communications professional with a special interest in working at the intersection of human rights and environmental justice. Her background includes science communication, international environmental policy, and geopolitics in Eurasia and at the Poles. Mariel previously served with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Armenia, the Wilson Center, the German Marshall Fund and Women Engage for a Common Future. Mariel concurrently serves as Managing Editor of the Antarctic Science Journal and volunteers with The Arctic Institute. She holds BAs in International Relations with a focus on the Former Soviet Union and Environmental Studies from Tufts University.

Marian Wiggins, Accountant

Marian has a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from The College of William and Mary and has been working in the field for about 18 years. She started out as an auditor for Ernst & Young, where she honed her analytical accounting skills as well as her understanding of financial controls and procedures. Marian then worked for a start up and then a government contracting firm before finding her niche, which is non-profit accounting. For the last 12 years, Marian has worked with several social service non-profits and is currently serving on the board of the Alexandria Friends of Mental Health as their treasurer. She has put into place controls and procedures as well as structured the accounting system in most of the places where she has worked, particularly the non-profits. Marian believes in combining her financial skills with her love of supporting good causes.


Jeffrey Dunn, Research Coordinator

Jeffrey is a recent graduate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he received a BA in Russian, Eurasian, Polish Studies and Political Science with a focus in Russian political, historical, and cultural studies. While studying abroad in Moscow as a Gilman Scholar, Jeffrey participated in the Russian-American Young Leaders’ Summit and volunteered at the American Cultural Center Moscow, working to better relations between the US and Russia through public diplomacy. During his undergraduate studies, Jeffrey participated in a course on Human Rights and Energy in Eurasia where he researched the security implications of Russian investments in transport corridors in Eurasia and ultimately became interested in working with the Crude Accountability team.

Crude Accountability Board of Directors

Crude Accountability’s Board of Directors is comprised of activists, scholars and scientists who are actively involved in a variety of social justice issues.  The board meets quarterly via conference call or in person to discuss policy, management, development and the strategy of Crude Accountability. Members serve a three-year, renewable term and are voted on to the board by other members in accordance with the organization’s bylaws.  Current board members include:

Ruth Breech brings nearly 20 years of on the ground work with environmental justice frontline communities. She specializes in providing air monitoring, organizing, organizational capacity building, fundraising and media trainings. Ruth has conducted trainings and supported campaigns with leaders in 35 US States and 10 international locations including key relationships in India, South Africa and Australia. Ruth is a published co-author in academic journals. She is the recipient of the 2009 Healthy School Heroes Award for her leadership in relocating an elementary school in Ohio away from a plastics plant’s cancer-causing emissions. Ruth is a Senior Campaigner with RAN’s Climate and Energy team. Ruth is responsible for organizing corporate accountability campaigns on financial institutions, supporting frontline communities impacted by fossil fuels and climate change, grassroots support networks across the country and coordinating support to Defund Climate Change through the Chase Bank Accountability Campaign and the Stop the Money Pipeline Coalition.

Catherine Cosman retired as Senior Policy Analyst at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom focusing on the former USSR. From 1976-1989 she served on staff of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission) as senior analyst on Soviet dissent. She worked on Helsinki Watch staff authoring studies on ethnic conflicts in Central Asia and the Caucasus, and human rights in the then-USSR. She lived in Estonia as the Senior Expert of the OSCE Mission, focusing on the integration of the Russian minority into Estonia. At the Free Trade Union Institute (1992-1996), she worked with emerging trade unions in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. She managed the Central Asian and Caucasus grants program at the National Endowment for Democracy before joining Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty where she edited “Media Matters” and “(Un)Civil Societies.” She graduated from Grinnell College. She received an MA in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Brown University. She also studied at the Free University of Berlin and the All-Union Institute of Cinematography in Moscow.

Jelson Garcia, Board Secretary, is an independent consultant specializing in the Asia region’s extractive governance, conflict and peacebuilding, and development finance with attention to accountability, environmental and social safeguards. He was previously the Asia Pacific Director of the Natural Resource Governance Institute overseeing multi-country teams that informed policy and institutional reform efforts in the oil, gas and mining industries in Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines. Before joining NRGI, Jelson served as the Asia director for the Bank Information Center where he was responsible for strategic programming and staff operations in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Mongolia, and program representation in Washington, D.C. Earlier, he served at the Office of the Philippine President, convening State and non-State actor working groups that supported the economic transitions of demobilized combatants and remote populations emerging from armed conflicts. Jelson earned a BA in anthropology and comparative sociology from Macquarie University and an MA in anthropology from the University of the Philippines.

Leanne Grossman, Board Chair, is a naturalist in the San Francisco Bay Area and a human rights and nature writer. Leanne has been active in efforts to secure domestic and international social and environmental justice for more than four decades, currently focusing on supporting the social, economic and political rights of immigrants. She served as Communications Director of the Global Fund for Women until 2008 and as Deputy Director of ISAR until 1996. Leanne earned a BA at UC Berkeley and an MA in international policy at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (now Middlebury). More recently, Leanne has earned certificates in natural history and environmental management at Merritt College in Huichin territory (Oakland, California) where she lives.

Yörük Işık is a geopolitical analyst based in Istanbul, where he runs his foreign policy social media project, Bosphorus Observer, analyzing military movements on the Turkish Straits. After working in the European Parliament, he spent 17 years in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, working for a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization to promote democracy and accountable governments. Mr. Işık studied international relations and Russian foreign policy at the Universities of Kansas, Helsinki and Amsterdam.

Sebastien Peyrouse, PhD, is a research professor at the Central Asia Program in the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (George Washington University) and a senior fellow at the East West Institute. He worked five years in Central Asia, at the French Institute for Central Asian Studies in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (1998-2000, 2002-2005), and was a Research Fellow at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington D.C. (October 2006-June 2007). His main areas of expertise are political systems in Central Asia, economic and social issues, Islam and religious minorities, and Central Asia’s geopolitical positioning toward China, India and South Asia. He has edited several volumes on Central Asia and has published a monograph, Turkmenistan. Strategies of Power, Dilemmas of Development (Armonk: M. E. Sharpe, November 2011), and, with Marlène Laruelle, The ‘Chinese Question’ in Central Asia. Domestic Order, Social Changes, and the Chinese Factor (London, New York: Hurst, Columbia University Press, December 2011) and Globalizing Central Asia: Geopolitics and the Challenges of Economic Development (Armonk: ME Sharpe, 2012).

Neil Tangri, Board Treasurer, is Science and Policy Director at the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, of which he is a founding member. He is a climate scientist and oceanographer and has worked on international governance of plastics, international climate policy, carbon markets, climate and development finance, waste management, and other environmental and environmental justice issues. He has a Ph.D from Stanford University and a captain’s license from the US Coast Guard.

Kate Watters is co-founder of Crude Accountability and has served as the executive director since its founding in 2003. Kate oversees the management and development of the organization, working with staff and board to build sustainable and effective programs and campaigns. She works closely with activists in affected communities to develop strategies and actions to protect environmental and human rights on the local, national, and international levels. She has worked with human rights and environmental defenders in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Russia since the early 1990s, has lived in and traveled extensively throughout the region, and speaks fluent Russian. She is the author of numerous reports and articles on civil society in Central Asia and the Caspian region and has been interviewed for print media, radio, and television about the environment, oil and gas, and human rights in the region.  Kate holds an MA in Russian Area Studies from Georgetown University and a BA in Russian literature from UMASS-Amherst.

Yevgeniy Zhovtis is a director of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, founder and board member of the “Bota” Foundation, and a participant in a Working Group on Reform of Electoral Legislation in Kazakhstan. He has received several honors for his work in human rights, including the 2007 Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Human Rights Award, the 2005 International Helsinki Federation Recognition Award, and many others.  In the early 1990s, Mr. Zhovtis worked for what is now the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan. In 1999, he graduated with honors from the High Law School “Adilet” in Almaty, Kazakhstan. In 2002 he was named the Best Lawyer of Kazakhstan.  Mr. Zhovtis has published more than 150 publications on the problems of democratization and economic transformation, and on the human rights situation and rule of law in Kazakhstan, and has lectured extensively on these topics at various universities. Mr. Zhovtis has chaired various committees, such as the Forum of Democratic Forces of Kazakhstan and the board of Directors of “Soros-Kazakhstan” Foundation. He has also participated in a range of institutions including the Consultative Council on the Problems of Public Policy; the Working Group on Abolition of the Death Penalty; the OSCE Expert Panel on Freedom of Assembly; the Expert Council attached to the Commission on Human Rights under the President of Kazakhstan; the Open Society Institute Sub-Board on Law, Human Rights, and more.


Crude Accountability is funded by private foundations and individual donors. We do not accept funding from the petroleum industry. If you would like to receive more information about our funding, please contact us at info@nullcrudeaccountability.org.

If you would like to support Crude Accountability, please click here.


We are pleased to offer a way for you to share your thoughts on Crude Accountability.  Below you can read some of the recent feedback we have received on our environmental justice campaigns in the Caspian.  Whether you’re a colleague, donor, supporter, oil company CEO or a new friend, we invite you to read this commentary and to share your thoughts on the value of Crude Accountability.

Also, you can jump in on the Crude conversation by becoming an official fan on Facebook.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Leanne Grossman, Crude Accountability Board of Directors
Oakland, California, USA
I’m so proud to be a member of Crude Accountability’s Board of Directors because Crude speaks truth to power. Crude Accountability defends environmental rights activists in the most dangerous moments and doesn’t run away from the fire.

Svetlana Anosova, Chairman, Public Association “Zhasyl dala
Berezovka, Kazakhstan
Crude Accountability is a relatively young, but already quite experienced organization.  Our public association (at that time still an initiative group), had a lot to learn in 2002, and the role of Crude Accountability was critical in our coming into being.  It is difficult to identify a goal without an experienced teacher.  Crude Accountability was that sort of teacher for us.  During our years of partnership with the organization, we have learned a lot from its members—Michelle Kinman and Kate Watters.  Their optimism and confidence in the triumph of justice compels everyone who is near them to have the same feelings, and despite setbacks, to find new solutions.  There are endless examples of the merits that demonstrate that Crude Accountability is a trustworthy friend and partner with whom it makes sense to undertake serious tasks.  The hope for long-term mutual cooperation and support inspires us to the belief that together we will overcome all difficulties and achieve the lofty goals that have been given to us on behalf of the global community.

Andrey Zatoka, Environmental activist and member of the initial Crude Accountability Board of Directors
Dashoguz, Turkmenistan
It is awkward for me compliment Crude Accountability because I’ve been involved in its activities.  But I must say that I am proud of my participation in its formation and work.  I remember how our international collaboration began—with ISAR’s “Seeds of Democracy” Program and then with its Caspian Program.   And I remember the stage when the main “motorists” of Caspian cooperation, Kate and Michelle, tried to attract and draw on the best activists and best ideas for a great cause—saving the living Caspian.  I am proud of the principles that we put together and have followed all of these years.  And the only thing that upsets me is that Crude is practically the only completely principled defender of a living Caspian.  And that there is still so very much to be done to save the Caspian, and that the possibilities are limited.

Sergey Solyanik, Consultant, Crude Accountability
Almaty, Kazakhstan
Crude Accountability is unique in that it works to solve environmental problems of the Caspian region on the local and international levels: from support for local initiatives in defense of environmental human rights, to participation in discussions about international agreements in defense of the Caspian Sea.  This enables them to fully engage in decision-making and to understand the situation throughout the Caspian region, as well as in individual countries.
Crude Accountability also plays an important role by providing local residents with an opportunity to bring their concerns to highly placed people who make decisions about environmentally dangerous projects in the countries of the Caspian region: representatives of the international financial institutions, and politicians in the USA and Europe.

Contact Us

For general inquiries, please write to info@nullcrudeaccountability.org.

Crude Accountability 
P.O. Box 423,
Linden, VA

Tel./Fax: 540.252.2592