Washington, D.C. – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44) today led an effort opposing any diversion of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to the fossil fuel industry. Barragán, Markey, and 39 of their House and Senate colleagues sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Federal Reserve System Chair Jerome Powell in response to reports that the oil industry and coal industry are lobbying for bailout money. The Trump administration has already taken steps to act on behalf of oil industry interests, including by concluding a deal with Saudi Arabia and Russia on global oil supplies.
“The Treasury Department and the Fed face an important choice. Funds from the CARES Act are intended to support struggling families, workers, businesses, states, and municipalities,” write the lawmakers in their letter. “Giving that money to the fossil fuel industry will do nothing to stop the spread of the deadly virus or provide relief to those in need. It will only artificially inflate the fossil fuel industry’s balance sheets.
“We call on you to ignore the pleas of big oil lobbyists, put consideration of this corporate bailout aside, and instead focus on supporting the workers and small businesses who truly need assistance due to the coronavirus public health emergency.”
The letter to Secretary Mnuchin and Chairman Powell was signed by Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).
And in the House of Representatives, signing on to the letter are Reps. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Jesús “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Ted W. Lieu (CA-33), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Chellie Pingree (Maine-01), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Mike Levin (CA-49), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (MA-04), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Peter Welch (VT-At Large), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Andy Levin (MI-09), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Paul D. Tonko (NY-20), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), and Ilhan Omar (MN-05)
A copy of the letter is available HERE. Full text of the letter is below.
The letter is supported by Food & Water Watch, Sierra Club, Oil Change International, Greenpeace USA, 350.org, and Oxfam America.
“Protecting our families in this time of crisis must be the priority right now and the focus of relief efforts, not lining the pockets of fossil fuel executives,” said Kelly Martin, Director, Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. “We applaud Sen. Markey and Rep. Barragan for their leadership in holding the Trump administration accountable to support vulnerable communities, not corporate polluters.”
“Millions of people in America are struggling to stay healthy and economic hardship, inequity, and insecurity are at an all-time high,” said Natalie Mebane, Associate Director of U.S. Policy, 350.org. “Yet, the Trump Administration feels that the best use of taxpayer money is to give handouts of billions of dollars to the fossil fuel industry. This is appalling. We must prioritize workers on the frontlines of this pandemic and provide them with the proper PPE necessary to stay safe. We should be supporting small businesses and families that are out of work, not propping up a destructive industry that already receives billions in subsidies and is driving us deeper into climate catastrophe. We need our government to help those most impacted by this crisis, not rolling back environmental protections.”
“Greenpeace USA fully supports this opposition to Republicans’ opportunistic attempt to secure a bailout for declining fossil fuel corporations,” said John Noël, Senior Climate Campaigner, Greenpeace USA. “We cannot let executives and lobbyists exploit a pandemic for their own gain instead of supporting working families. The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the brutal inequality in our economic system, but our response represents a chance to heal the historic injustices borne by working class people and communities of color. We must start by ensuring not a single cent of our tax dollars goes to the fossil fuel corporations who created and profited from the climate crisis.”
“Now is not the time for the government to privilege fossil fuel bailouts and deregulation over relief for the millions of people suddenly out of work, scrambling to put food on the table and pay the rent. Favoring fossil fuel companies – which already enjoy hefty subsidies and significant tax breaks, with little oversight and accountability – is absolutely unacceptable,” said Fatema Sumar, Vice President of Global Programs, Oxfam America. “Secretary Mnuchin and Chairman Powell must ensure that people, not fossil fuel companies and executives that hold the ear of government, benefit from the extraordinary economic relief and resiliency efforts.”
“Ensuring that stimulus funds flow directly to the vulnerable communities that need them most is quite literally a life-and-death issue,” said Collin Rees, Senior Campaigner, Oil Change International. “Allowing bailout funds to prop up the dying oil and gas industry and line the pockets of fossil fuel executives would be a disaster, and fundamentally shake the public's faith in Congress to deal with this crisis. We applaud Senator Markey, Representative Barragán, and their co-signers for their courage to stand with working people and marginalized communities, not big polluters.”
“In the midst of a global health crisis, the last thing we should do is bail out the industry responsible for creating another global crisis,” said Mitch Jones, Policy Director, Food & Water Action. “Every dollar that goes to prop up the fossil fuel industry takes resources away from families, small businesses and workers on the front lines saving lives. As the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department oversee billions of dollars dedicated to relief programs, and Congress is debating additional stimulus efforts, we must make sure that none of those public funds are used to prop up fossil fuel polluters. We look forward to working with Senator Markey and Representative Barragan in this effort.”
April 15, 2020
The Honorable Steve Mnuchin
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220
The Honorable Jerome Powell
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
20th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20551
Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Chairman Powell,
We write to express concern regarding reports that the fossil fuel industry is lobbying the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve System (the Fed) for financial support and deregulation in response to the COVID-19 crisis. We urge you to reject big oil’s ill-timed and unworthy request for assistance.
Under the cover of a pandemic, these multibillion-dollar companies are taking every opportunity to push for a bailout that avoids responsibility for record levels of debt and financial turmoil that are of their own making. The oil and gas industry amassed significant debt by expanding drilling in the hope that global oil and gas prices would forever remain high. With Russia and Saudi Arabia engaging in an oil price conflict and consumers demanding renewable energy while using less oil, global price drops are exposing these risky investments.
In just the last two weeks, the Trump administration has used a combination of enforcement waivers, bargain basement oil and gas lease sales, and a rollback of fuel economy standards to transfer billions of dollars in value of natural resource and clean air benefits from the public to the fossil fuel industry. These actions are especially abhorrent during a pandemic whose burden falls heaviest on Americans with weakened respiratory systems.
The Treasury Department and the Fed face an important choice. Funds from the CARES Act are intended to support struggling families, workers, businesses, states, and municipalities. Giving that money to the fossil fuel industry will do nothing to stop the spread of the deadly virus, or provide relief to those in need. It will only artificially inflate the fossil fuel industry’s balance sheets.
We call on you to ignore the pleas of big oil lobbyists, put consideration of this corporate bailout aside, and instead focus on supporting the workers and small businesses who truly need assistance due to the coronavirus public health emergency. Additionally, we urge you to set up any internal reporting infrastructure necessary to ensure that the Treasury and the Fed have the capacity to report details of all loan transactions to Congress, as required by law.
Our government should not use public funds intended to combat a public health and jobs crisis to further the climate and financial crisis that will come from investment in troubled oil assets. The United States must respond to the threat of climate change by pursuing a clean energy future with bold solutions for green jobs that ensure a fair, just transition for affected workers and their communities. A corporate bailout for the fossil fuel industry is not the answer to either crisis.