FEINGOLD WORKS TO END COZY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND BIG OIL
Outlines Several Efforts to Help Hold Oil Companies Accountable, Protect Taxpayers and the Environment
Monday, June 7, 2010
Washington, D.C. - As the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the BP oil leak continues, Senator Russ Feingold is pushing several efforts that will help hold BP accountable for the disaster while making the oil industry as a whole more accountable in the future. Feingold’s current efforts, as well as actions he has taken throughout his career, aim to end the cozy relationship between the federal government and oil companies, which has led to relaxed oversight and taxpayer-funded giveaways to the oil industry. The catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is causing incalculable damage to our environment as well as our economy. As the federal government works with the private sector to stop the leak and address the aftermath, Congress has the responsibility to look ahead and do what it takes to prevent this from happening again. This oil spill makes painfully clear how dangerous the cozy relationship between the federal government and powerful companies can be. Just as we saw with Wall Street recently, when the federal government gives in to powerful special interests by reducing protections and oversight, the American people pay a heavy price,” Feingold said. Feingold is sponsoring or cosponsoring several legislative efforts to hold BP accountable for the current crisis, as well as efforts to hold oil companies accountable to prevent future crises. These efforts include:
Making oil companies responsible for damage they cause
Ending government giveaways to oil and gas companies
Forcing oil companies to use the leases they currently have before receiving new leases through his “Use It or Lose It” bill
Keeping big oil accountable for oil spills
Throughout his career, Feingold has worked to curb the unfettered influence of large corporations, including oil companies, on the political process through ethics and lobbying reform, as well as campaign finance reform. ore information on each of these efforts is below: Making oil companies responsible for damage they cause Senator Feingold is cosponsoring legislation introduced by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) to increase the liability cap for damages for which oil companies must be responsible (S.3305). The existing $75 million liability cap is less than one day’s worth of profits for BP, which profited almost $6 billion in the first quarter this year. A $75 million cap for damages means that is all it will have to pay for all the lost business revenues from fishing and tourism, natural resources damages, and lost tax revenue of state and local governments. Under the bill, the liability cap for damages an oil company would be liable for would be raised to $10 billion. Ending Government Giveaways to Oil and Gas Companies he 2005 Energy bill, which some people have referred to as the “Dick Cheney Lobbyist Energy Bill,” contained a provision that provided oil and gas companies with taxpayer-funded giveaways by preventing federal agencies from adequately charging them for the processing of permits. Senator Feingold, who opposed the 2005 bill, is working to change that policy and allow the federal government to charge for those administrative costs. Feingold’s legislation would also restore the federal government’s share of geothermal leasing revenues generated from production occurring on federal lands. All in all, this effort would save taxpayers $239 million. Feingold effort is part of his Control Spending Now Act (S.1808), legislation to slash the deficit by nearly one-half trillion dollars. “Use It or Lose It” Currently, oil companies hold leases on 61 million acres of federal land and water that they are not developing – nearly three-quarters of areas under lease. Estimates have indicated there are 100 billion barrels of oil under federal lands and waters that are being leased or are available for leasing by oil companies. Senator Feingold is the author of legislation (S.1623) dubbed the “Use It or Lose It” bill, which would spur companies to develop the lands they are currently leasing before they are given new leases. Coal companies already comply with requirements that they diligently develop federally leased lands. Feingold’s legislation would ensure that oil companies be treated the same. The bill would create industry-wide accountability standards, which many of the oil companies say they are already capable of meeting. Keeping Big Oil Accountable for Oil Spills Senator Feingold is the author of the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA), legislation to restore Clean Water Act protections for all waters protected prior to two recent Supreme Court decisions. The Clean Water Act is the main statute used to prosecute polluters who dump oil into waters of the United States. The court decisions have gutted the law and currently more than 50 percent of waters are no longer clearly protected from oil spills from Big Oil's maze of pipelines, oil vessels, and related activities. Passage of the Clean Water Restoration Act is critical to ensuring accountability for oil spills.
Previous Feingold Efforts to End the Cozy Relationship Between the Oil Industry and the Federal Government
Banning Gifts from Oil Company Lobbyists to Members of Congress
he cozy relationship between government and the oil industry was fueled by gifts from oil industry lobbyists to members of Congress. Senator Feingold, who has adhered to a strict no-gifts policy since he came to the Senate in 1993, has worked for years to tighten gift rules for members of Congress. In 1995, he led an effort to reform Senate gift rules to end unlimited gifts. In 2007, Congress passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, which contained a strong lobbyist gift ban based on an ethics reform bill he originally crafted, prohibiting lobbyists and organizations such as oil companies that employ lobbyists from giving gifts to members of Congress and their staffs. The bill also prohibited members of Congress from flying on corporate jets without paying the market rate for such travel and sharply limited private travel paid for by groups that lobby.
Banning “Soft Money” Donations from the Oil Industry
The McCain-Feingold bill, which Senator Feingold worked for years to pass alongside Senator John McCain, banned “soft money,” the enormous, unregulated contributions from corporations including oil companies, as well as unions and wealthy individuals directly to the political parties. Prior to McCain-Feingold, members of Congress could solicit six or seven figure donations from oil companies and then turn around and vote on legislation that directly impacted the industry. Thanks to McCain-Feingold, that is now a crime.
Opposing Drilling in the Great Lakes
Senator Feingold has been a leading Senate opponent of drilling in the Great Lakes. He cosponsored the Great Lakes Water Protection Act, which sought to deny oil or gas drilling in any of the Great Lakes