Even the Most Progressive COVID-19 Response to Date Doesn’t Confront the Fossil Fuel Industry
by Ryan Schleeter
May 15, 2020
The HEROES Act marks critical progress towards protecting essential workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis and building a more people-powered democracy. But it does not do enough to prevent oil, gas, and coal companies that were struggling even before the COVID-19 pandemic from wriggling their way out of debt at taxpayers’ expense.
Washington, DC — Moments ago, the House of Representatives voted 208-199 to pass the HEROES Act. The $3.6 trillion proposal is the largest relief package yet responding to the COVID-19 crisis and resulting economic hardship and contains a long list of progressive priorities. Notably, the bill includes many important provisions of the Essential Workers Bill of Rights and vital election protections.
In response, Greenpeace USA Democracy Campaign Director Folabi Olagbaju said:
“The HEROES Act marks critical progress towards protecting essential workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis and building a more people-powered democracy. While the Trump administration and Mitch McConnell have made every effort to bail out corporations as millions of working families suffer, today the House passed the first bill that attempts to put people first.
“No one should have to choose between their health and their right to vote. Key reforms such as universal vote-by-mail, extended early in-person voting, and no-excuse absentee ballots with prepaid postage must become a permanent feature of our electoral process at the local, state, and federal levels. The $3.6 billion allocated in the HEROES Act for electoral reforms helps create a pathway for all of us to have access to the ballot while staying safe and healthy. Elections have consequences. Death should not be one of them.”
Despite progress towards a people-centered relief package, the HEROES Act does not do enough to prevent oil, gas, and coal companies that were struggling even before the COVID-19 pandemic from wriggling their way out of debt at taxpayers’ expense. Fossil fuel companies have already received $113 million in taxpayer-backed loans meant for small businesses, and corporate giants like Exxon, Chevron, and Koch Industries could be the next to benefit from Fed assistance through bond buybacks .
Greenpeace USA Senior Climate Campaigner John Noël said:
“It makes no sense that a bill that does so much for workers and families would fail to close massive loopholes that only benefit fossil fuel CEOs. With every COVID-19 relief package that’s passed, the door to an ill-fated oil bailout has opened even wider. As the HEROES Act moves forward, we hope to see champions in the Senate step up to stop oil, gas, and coal companies from plundering relief programs designed to help small businesses and working people.”
Congress is facing increasing pressure to stop the Trump administration’s multiple attempts to bail out the fossil fuel industry. Last week, Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA-44) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the ReWIND Act, legislation designed to prevent oil companies from exploiting the COVID-19 crisis for financial gain . It’s already cosponsored by eight Senators: Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Corey Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
 The ReWIND Act blocks executive actions the Trump administration has taken or has indicated an interest in pursuing in order to aid fossil fuel corporations, prevents banks receiving CARES Act funds from becoming owners of distressed oil and gas assets, blocks the waiving of royalty payments for public oil and gas leases, prevents the storage of private oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and puts a moratorium on new fossil fuel lease sales: https://barragan.house.gov/
Contact: Ryan Schleeter, Senior Communications Specialist, Greenpeace USA: +1 (415) 342-2386, [email protected]