Democrats say coronavirus stimulus should not bail out fossil fuel companies

Democrats say coronavirus stimulus should not bail out fossil fuel companies
© Greg Nash

More than 40 Democratic lawmakers are arguing that fossil fuel companies should not be able to receive any assistance under the coronavirus relief package passed by Congress last month. 

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinWhite House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Sunday shows - Trump coronavirus executive orders reverberate Pelosi: 'Of course there's room for compromise' on 0-per-week unemployment benefit MORE and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell, lawmakers say the $2 trillion deal was “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,” lawmakers wrote in a letter spearheaded by Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Budowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.).

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“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," they added.

Neither agency responded to requests for comment from The Hill.

Democrats have been strongly opposed to fossil fuel companies receiving any sort of benefit from the Trump administration, even as prices hit record lows.

Their insistence thwarted an administration attempt to secure some $3 billion needed to buy 77 million barrels of oil for the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  

The Department of Energy, however, is now moving ahead with renting oil companies space in the reserve, to be paid in oil, as a way of buoying the industry by offering a space to store excess supply.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), which represents oil companies, had said the industry was not interested in a bailout, but condemned the lawmakers' letter.

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"This proposal is harmful to American workers, opportunistic during a public crisis and contrary to the law.  We encourage the Treasury and the Fed to soundly reject it.  If this group of members wanted to amend the law, they should have done it before they passed it,” API spokesman Scott Lauermann said in an email to The Hill.

API has asked for regulatory relief, citing the coronavirus. A 10-page letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outlined the industry's list of requestsThe coal industry sent the agency a similar request

The EPA has agreed to relax enforcement of laws requiring companies, including those in the fossil fuel industry, to monitor their pollution during the outbreak, something critics have called a license to pollute.

--Updated at 3:46 p.m.