WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, along with Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), today announced the introduction of legislation that would prohibit the Department of the Interior from slashing royalty rates for fossil fuel corporations, amid reports that the Trump administration is considering using the coronavirus to push massive ill-advised giveaways to the oil and gas industry.
“In the face of this public health crisis, the best thing we can do for our communities and our economy is support and protect everyday working Americans,” Merkley said. “We should be making sure families in our communities can stay healthy, stay in their homes, keep the lights on, and put food on the table. What we don’t need to be doing is propping up massive fossil fuel corporations that are pushing us towards a climate crisis.”
“Making the climate crisis worse will not make the coronavirus crisis any better,” Markey said. “The Trump administration does not need the power to allow fossil fuel producers to drill and mine for free—we need to protect the planet, protect taxpayers, and move to prevent this kind of misuse of federal authority.”
“It is completely unconscionable that President Trump is using the national crisis of the coronavirus to push for giveaways to the fossil fuel industry, while millions of workers are struggling without paid leave, and our most vulnerable people—the elderly, the sick, the poor—could face health-related and financial catastrophes,” Sanders said. “We shouldn’t be producing these dirty fossil fuels at all, much less providing billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to the industry every year. What we should be doing instead is providing free coronavirus testing and treatment, paid emergency medical leave, and extending unemployment insurance and nutrition assistance—not passing more tax breaks for billionaires and fossil fuel executives.”
The bill is one of various steps taken by Senator Merkley this week to protect American workers and families from the economic ramifications of the coronavirus. Additionally, the Senator urged President Trump to halt evictions and foreclosures, particularly for low-income, elderly, and disabled Americans, and pressed the CEOs of eight large telecommunication service providers to both suspend policies that limit access to internet services and expand internet services in rural and underserved areas. He has also worked to help write and pass an emergency aid package, and this week pushed for an additional emergency package this week to respond to the economic impacts of the virus—including paid sick leave, emergency unemployment benefits, and more.
The full bill text is available here.