Legislation aims to block fossil fuel companies from receiving coronavirus aid
A group of more than 40 lawmakers is backing legislation to prevent fossil fuel companies from receiving coronavirus-related aid.
The sweeping Resources for Workforce Investments, Not Drilling (ReWIND) Act aims to prevent fossil fuel companies from receiving loans provided for under previous coronavirus aid packages and prevent the Trump administration from helping the companies in other ways.
The legislation follows the loosening of criteria for a Federal Reserve lending program, which could help the oil and gas industry acquire government financing.
“It would be unconscionable to bail out big oil and gas corporations with money intended to help families, workers and small businesses survive this global pandemic,” said a statement from Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), who is leading the legislation alongside Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
“The CARES Act passed to help Americans struggling to make it through the COVID-19 public health crisis – not to make it easier for fossil fuel companies to drive us closer to climate catastrophe,” she added, referring to a coronavirus relief bill that authorized the loan funding.
The new legislation will likely face an uphill battle in the Republican-led Senate.
Whether or not to include the fossil fuel industry in coronavirus assistance has become a partisan lightning rod, with Republicans arguing that aid is necessary for energy independence and Democrats opposing it for environmental reasons.
The bill appears to attempt to directly counter either actions taken by the Trump administration or moves supported by industry groups.
For example, it aims to cap an emergency oil supply called the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) at its current level of 714.5 million barrels and prevent private companies from storing their oil in the reserve.
President Trump has said he wants to fill the remaining space in the reserve by purchasing oil, which would help industry. After Congress declined to fund that endeavor, the administration moved to allow companies to lease space in the reserve.
The legislation would seek to halt the sale of new fossil fuel leases while the administration continues to sell leases on federal land and prevent the Interior Department from cutting royalties for companies with such leases, which has been advocated for by certain industry groups.
Other provisions in the bill would suspend new federal rule-making and keep all public comment periods open and prevent banks affected by certain CARES Act provisions from making new equity investments in fossil fuel companies for two years.
The new proposal is backed by a number of environmental groups.