Merkley, Barragán Introduce Legislation to Put Families Above Fossil Fuel Corporations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Nanette Barragan (D-CA-44) today led a group of 39 lawmakers in introducing new legislation to stop the Trump administration from taking coronavirus relief funding away from struggling businesses to bail out fossil fuel corporations.

Even as health care workers on the frontlines of the pandemic ration Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and farmers and agricultural producers have been crowded out of Economic Injury Disaster Loans, President Trump continues to prioritize saving the fossil fuel industry.  Just last week, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Board caved in to pressure from fossil fuel companies and President Trump, and changed the rules of the Main Street Lending Program.

The Resources for Workforce Investments, Not Drilling (ReWIND) Act counters Trump’s effort to bail out fossil fuel companies. The bill’s sponsors intend to push for inclusion of the ReWIND Act in the next coronavirus relief package.   

“Our economic recovery from the coronavirus must be built from the ground up—with good, family-supporting jobs in sustainable industries,” said Merkley. “At a time of crisis, we cannot afford to use our public resources to make bad investments in industries that are not only financially risky, but are destroying our planet.”

“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 Rep. Barragán. “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.”

“While millions of Americans are threatened by the coronavirus pandemic, the fossil fuel industry is trying to use this crisis to their advantage by seeking even more special favors from the federal government,” Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said. “For decades, they have racked up enormous profits and received billions each year in federal handouts while committing one of the greatest frauds in the history of our country by lying about the existence of climate change. Instead of bailing out this failing industry, we need to make sure that all American workers and families are protected as we weather this crisis and create millions of jobs by aggressively transitioning away from oil, gas, and coal to sustainable energy and energy efficiency.”

“The oil industry is demanding bailout after bailout, when they have long been sinking under their own weight by overproducing fossil fuels and ignoring climate science. It would be irresponsible from a financial standpoint, a public health standpoint, and an environmental standpoint to use the coronavirus crisis as an excuse to give these companies a handout. Our response to the coronavirus crisis cannot fuel the climate crisis. This legislation would prevent the Trump administration from putting the demands of fossil fuel lobbyists above the needs of the American workers and small businesses that have been hurt by this crisis,” said Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA).

“Protecting our families in this time of crisis must be the priority right now, not lining the pockets of fossil fuel executives,” said Kelly Martin, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. “We applaud Sen. Merkley and Rep. Barragan for their leadership in ensuring that relief funds go towards supporting vulnerable communities, not corporate polluters.” 

“Rep. Barragán and Sen. Merkley’s ReWIND Act provides the decisive leadership we need to reject a fossil fuel bailout and the industry’s toxic legacy of polluting communities, endangering workers, and fueling the climate crisis,” said Ben Goloff, Climate Campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “All members of Congress need to choose a side: Will they bail out fossil fuel industry executives or protect workers and communities?”

“Reckless corporate polluters that racked up billions in debt should get nothing from the rescue programs that are intended to put Americans back to work. Thanks to the leadership of Senator Merkley and Representative Barragan, this landmark legislation protects public resources from greedy fossil fuel profiteers, and can help America create a COVID recovery plan that prioritizes building a safe and healthy future for all,” said Mitch Jones, Policy Director for Food & Water Action.

“The oil and gas industry was already polluting your air and harming the climate with dangerous methane pollution. Now, industry and the Trump Administration are using a national emergency to get a taxpayer bailout,” said Aaron Mintzes, Senior Policy Counsel at Earthworks.  “Senator Merkley and Rep Barragán’s ReWIND Act protects our health, climate, and purse from this fossil fuel giveaway. Their bill helps ensure our current health crisis does not fuel the existing climate crisis.”

“Bailing out the fossil fuel industry is a complete slap in the face to the millions of people who have  lost their jobs, homes, livelihoods, and family members due to COVID-19. We cannot continue as we were – now more than ever we need to address the double crises of the coronavirus pandemic and climate chaos by centering the needs of people and planet. Legislation like the ReWIND Act is necessary for transitioning away from fossil fuels and supporting workers and our communities,” said Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN).

“The REWIND Act is critical to ensure relief funds are flowing directly to frontline workers and communities, not being hijacked by Big Oil CEOs,” said Collin Rees, Senior Campaigner at Oil Change International. “We’re thankful for champions like Rep. Barragán and Sen. Merkley leading this fight, and we urge Congress to include these protections in the next stimulus package and focus on supporting workers instead of billionaire executives.”

“Protecting our families in this time of crisis must be the priority right now, not lining the pockets of fossil fuel executives,” said Kelly Martin, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. “We applaud Sen. Merkley and Rep. Barragan for their leadership in ensuring that relief funds go towards supporting vulnerable communities, not corporate polluters.” 

“The ReWIND Act is exactly the message we need to send to the Administration and those in Congress who support fossil fuel corporations over everyday people. While unemployment is at an all-time high due to COVID-19, Trump and his allies in Congress are working overtime to bailout the corporate oil and gas executives driving us deeper into climate disaster instead of those in need. We commend Representative Barragan and Senator Merkley for introducing this legislation to put people first and prevent polluters from manipulating this crisis for their own profits. We need to prioritize protections for workers and do everything possible to help communities that are most vulnerable during this pandemic,” said Natalie Mebane, Associate Director of U.S. Policy for 350 Action.

“After refusing to evolve and then driving their companies into the ground, oil CEOs are using COVID-19 as an opportunity to keep themselves afloat while workers suffer. The ReWIND Act is our best chance to stop the Trump Administration from bailing out the millionaires who created and profited off of the climate crisis. Right now we need to make sure all relief goes directly to workers and families, not corporate executives,” said John Noël, Senior Climate Campaigner, Greenpeace USA.

“Americans already give the oil and gas industry billions in subsidies. Now they want us to bail them out for bad decisions they made before COVID-19 hit? We should be supporting workers directly, not paying off polluters,” said Ken Berlin, President and CEO of The Climate Reality Project.

“Taxpayers are making massive investments and frontline workers are making incredible sacrifices to keep the economy afloat. So, when it comes to fossil fuels, our efforts should be aimed at protecting vulnerable workers—not oil company executives. This important bill makes clear that we won’t tolerate a bailout or public land giveaway for corporate polluters who want to take our country—and our climate—in the wrong direction,” said Josh Axelrod, Senior Advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Big Oil drilled itself into bankruptcy long before the coronavirus and now it wants a bailout,” said Lukas Ross, Senior Policy Analyst at Friends of the Earth. “We thank Senator Merkley and Representative Barragán for fighting back against this shameless cash-grab. We need a bailout for people, not polluters.”

“The ReWIND Act offers an excellent opportunity allowing us to fast forward to a regenerative economy that’s not subjected to the boom and bust cycle of fossil fuel cartels,” said Anthony Rogers-Wright, Policy Coordinator with Climate Justice Alliance. “Sen Merkley has been a long time champion for climate justice, we applaud his efforts along with Rep. Barragán, both understand that the people are not going to accommodate the bailout of an industry that’s killing people, planet and climate alike. At this time we need to center the people and the workers, not the corporations.”

“The ReWIND Act would ensure that taxpayer dollars go to people in need, not polluters in debt. The safeguards proposed by Senator Merkley and Representative Barragán should be included in any future stimulus package to prevent the oil, gas and coal industry from hijacking resources needed to protect workers and their families,” said Nikki Reisch, Director of the Climate & Energy Program at the Center for International Environmental Law. “Fossil fuels are a losing proposition for people and the planet. Scarce public resources shouldn’t go to bailing out an industry in long-term, structural decline, but to building up the clean energy future.”

“We applaud the leadership of Sen. Merkley, Reps. Barragán, Omar, Huffman, and Jayapal and their many co-sponsors in Congress to ensure that fossil fuel companies and executives that hold the ear of government are not granted unnecessary bailouts, regulatory rollbacks, or access to US natural resources on the cheap,” said Fatema Sumar, Vice President of Global Programs at Oxfam America. “The ReWIND Act is the right start for building an ambitious, sustainable, and inclusive economic recovery that places workers and people over the profits of a politically-entrenched industry.”

“Trump needs to invite renewable energy executives to the White House, the same way he’s pandered to fossil fuel executives. Til then…reWIND for America’s future,” said RL Miller of Climate Hawks Vote.

While the nation is focused on a public health crisis that has left millions of families out of work and in need of assistance, the Trump administration has quietly rushed to erode environmental protections by weakening mercury regulation and lowering fuel economy and emissions standards.

To help undo the Trump administration’s misguided priorities, the ReWIND Act would stop fossil fuel companies from receiving many loans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act; stop banks who receive CARES benefits from taking over and operating fossil fuel companies; and put a moratorium on lease sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The ReWIND Act would also stop President Trump from using the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to artificially inflate oil prices to benefit drillers, and prevents the president from lowering or eliminating royalty rates on federal oil, gas and coal. It also would extend the public comment period for all federal rulemakings until 30 days after the COVID-19 emergency is over, except for those specifically related to the emergency. It would also restrict President Trump’s ability to use the Defense Production Act to loan money to the industry.

In addition to Merkley and Barragn, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-7), Jared Huffman (D-CA-2), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-13), Steve Cohen (D-TN-9), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-7), Jamie Raskin (D-MD-8), Joseph Kennedy (D-MA-4), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-13), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Jackie Speier (D-CA-14), Jesus “Chuy” García (D-IL-4), Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), Ro Khanna (D-CA-17), Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1), Grace Napolitano (D-CA-32), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47) Lucile Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40), Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24), Henry C. Johnson (D-GA-4), Alcee Hastings (D-FL-20), Jim McGovern (D-MA-2), Darren Soto (D-FL-9), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY-7), Mike Levin (D-NY-49), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA-51) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23).

Full text of the legislation is available here. A summary of the legislation is available here.