Omar, Sanders Lead Bill to End Destructive Taxpayer Subsidies for Fossil Fuels
By Eoin Higgins
Progressive Democrats led by Rep. Ilhan Omar and Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday introduced a bill to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and other industry giveaways, calling taxpayer support of the climate-killing business — a counterproductive and dangerous use of federal funds as the climate crisis worsens and Americans suffer through an economic downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's past time we end the billions of taxpayer subsidies to fossil-fuel companies," said Omar, a Minnesota Democrat. "Our focus right now needs to be on getting the American people through this difficult, unprecedented time, not providing giveaways to polluters."
It’s past time we end the billions of taxpayer subsidies to fossil-fuel companies. Today, @SenSanders,… https://t.co/kdafv03WE4— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Rep. Ilhan Omar)1595602352.0
"Taxpayers provide $15 billion in direct federal subsidies to the fossil fuel industry every year," she added. "That ends with this bill."
Omar and Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats, were joined in leading the End Polluter Welfare Act by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) as well as Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.).
"At a time when we are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and an economic decline, it is absurd to provide billions of taxpayer subsidies that pad fossil-fuel companies' already-enormous profits," said Sanders.
"We need more safe, healthy, good paying jobs," he added, "not more corporate polluter giveaways."
Fossil fuels are destroying our planet — yet the federal government gives oil, gas and coal companies nearly $15 BI… https://t.co/MoRpsw9U3h— Friends of the Earth (@Friends of the Earth)1595610919.0
The bill would close tax loopholes, end taxpayer-funded subsidies, and bar the use of federal lands for resource extraction and federal funding for fossil fuel research.
"It is ridiculous that the federal government continues to hand out massive giveaways to antiquated fossil fuel industries that are not only financially risky, but are also destroying our planet," said Merkley.
President Donald Trump's administration has prioritized giveaways to the fossil fuel industry throughout his presidency, including as the pandemic wreaks havoc on the country.
The legislation is co-sponsored in the House by Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Jesús "Chuy" Garcia (D-Ill.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.).
The legislation aims to cut off oil, gas and coal companies reaping billions from federal COVID-19 relief and annua… https://t.co/tvHL0Trx2w— Climate Desk (@Climate Desk)1595603535.0
According to a press release from Omar's office, the bill:
would also guarantee the continued solvency of the Black Lung Disability Fund to ensure continued medical care for tens of thousands of working-class Americans who worked hard for decades to provide energy for the nation. Fossil fuel drilling and transportation also disproportionately impact indigenous communities and communities of color, who have long opposed extraction on their land.
Activists and climate advocates like Greenpeace USA climate campaigner Charlie Jiang welcomed the legislation.
"It is outrageous that the federal government has exploited a pandemic to throw even more public money at the industry that created and profited from the climate crisis," said Jiang. "A bill to end giveaways for the fossil fuel industry—which is saddled with debt and recklessly polluting Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities—is long overdue. It's time to shift our investments to protect people on the frontlines of the climate crisis and support fossil fuel workers in the transition to a world beyond fossil fuels."
While the bill faces an uphill battle, it was nonetheless seen as a good sign by Earth Island Institute's International Marine Mammal Project, executive director Mark Palmer said in a statement.
"The fossil fuels industry must change to avoid the worst effects of global warming, which is already upon us," Palmer said. "This legislation is a giant step towards reining in the pollution from oil and gas development, and we wholeheartedly endorse it."
As the country reels from the coronavirus pandemic, said Oil Change International senior campaigner Collin Rees, the bill represents an important readjustment of priorities.
"The End Polluter Welfare Act is critically needed legislation at a pivotal moment," said Rees. "We must stop propping up oil, gas, and coal with public money and invest in the people and communities most impacted by systemic oppression, Covid-19, and the climate crisis."
Markey, who was also a lead sponsor of bicameral Green New Deal legislation along with Ocasio-Cortez, sounded a similar note in comments about the new bill.
"We should be providing support for workers and those affected by Trump's criminally-negligent response to the pandemic — not bailing out the fossil fuel industry and propping up its profit margins," said Markey. "Trump is only trying to add to these decades-long payouts for polluters, when we should be directing our resources to keeping people safe."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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