As our communities face the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we need to focus our limited resources on those whose needs are greatest. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is providing bailouts for the fossil fuel industry in the name of Covid-19 relief, including financial assistance and relaxing regulations that protect the public interest.
Citing the pandemic, the Department of the Interior (DOI) just released guidance encouraging oil and gas companies to seek royalty rate reductions and lease suspensions, and directing the BLM to grant such requests. The new policies enable oil and gas companies to reduce or eliminate payments to the federal and local governments, and to hold onto oil and gas leases that would otherwise expire. Even worse, this industry bailout comes just when local and state governments are experiencing dramatic declines in revenue they desperately need to help those affected by Covid-19.
The new policies also encourage more industry speculation on our local public lands. Those who have followed our work to protect Thompson Divide know that the BLM often doesn’t let oil and gas leases expire even when the law requires it. Lease suspensions relieve companies of obligations to drill, and to pay rentals and royalties—basically, allowing companies to hold leases on our public lands without having to pay anything to the public. These new policies will leave a legacy of suspended, non-paying leases on our public lands for years to come.
These policies are just one recent example of the Trump administration’s misguided response to Covid-19 that favors the fossil fuel industry. Another is the EPA’s announcement that the agency will relax penalties and enforcement on corporate polluters. Former EPA Director, Gina McCarthy called the policy “an open license to pollute” and highlighted how the communities with the highest risks from this pandemic are also the ones most likely to be impacted by relaxed oversight of pollution. What’s more, the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve are working to provide loans and other financial assistance to oil and gas companies – which were already failing well before the pandemic.
Rather than supporting local communities in need and ensuring the public interest is primarily served by pandemic-related bailouts, the Trump administration is prioritizing more handouts to the oil and gas industry. Please act now and tell our elected officials in the U.S. Senate to halt senseless fossil fuel bailouts.
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