Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Oil companies get $1.9B in tax benefits under stimulus | Green groups wish Dems went bigger with relief bill | Lawmaker says national park reopening measures ‘wholly insufficient’

PAYOUT: Companies with ties to the oil industry have received some $1.9 billion in tax benefits under federal coronavirus stimulus legislation, according to an analysis from Bloomberg. 

Thirty-seven such companies claimed tax benefits through the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that was passed by Congress in late March, the outlet found after reviewing Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

One provision of the law gives companies greater ability to deduct recent losses: a key feature for an oil industry that saw prices drop from $50 in February to as little as negative $37 in April.

Prices are now hovering near $30, but many in the industry have already sustained significant losses.

The tax changes allow companies even in bankruptcy to get refunds, which experts told Bloomberg means it could be years before some oil firms pay corporate income taxes again.

Read more on the analysis here

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GO BIG OR GO HOME: Environmentalists are lamenting the provisions in Democrats’ $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill being voted on Friday, arguing the House package is ambitious on several fronts but not on climate change and clean energy.

The environmental provisions in the bill include $1.5 billion in funding for states and tribes to help low-income households pay for drinking water services and another $1.5 billion to help low-income households cover their energy costs.

It also includes $50 million in grants to investigate the disproportionate impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on communities facing environmental inequalities and $111 million to track species “that could pose a biohazard risk to human health.”

Green groups say that while they support those provisions and the overall bill, it doesn’t go far enough on pressing environmental issues.

Melinda Pierce, the Sierra Club’s legislative director, said the legislation has “many important priorities for the country” but it “unfortunately leaves out COVID-19 related assistance that could save clean energy jobs.”

The environmental group 350 Action released a list of policies it would like to see in the stimulus legislation, namely blocking fossil fuel companies from receiving stimulus funding, making renewable energy investments and preventing construction of fossil fuel projects like pipelines.

Some environmental groups wish Democrats had thought bigger in crafting the measure.

John Morton, who served as the White House senior director for energy and climate change during the Obama administration, told The Hill that the U.S. should be taking cues from countries like Canada, which is requiring companies that receive government aid to make annual reports on how their operations will affect the country’s climate goals.

“Thoughtful countries are using this next round of recovery and stimulus funds to support lower-carbon, more resilient industrial policy,” said Morton.

Meanwhile, a new group made up of former staffers on Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign officially launched Thursday, and proposed its own $1.5 trillion “clean jumpstart” stimulus idea. 

“For Democrats and progressives to not lean into and stand up for emerging clean energy industries that are suffering right now, that’s a serious policy choice,” said Bracken Hendricks, co-founder of the group, which is called Evergreen.

The push for more environmental provisions comes amid troubling news for the renewable industry. An analysis of government data published Wednesday estimated that nearly 600,000 jobs in the sector had been lost since the start of the pandemic.

Days before House Democrats unveiled their coronavirus legislation, known as the HEROES Act, Democratic lawmakers in both chambers introduced the ReWIND Act, which aims to block oil and gas companies from receiving loans under previous coronavirus response bills signed into law. 

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the ReWIND Act’s Senate sponsor, told The Hill in a statement he was “disappointed that the ReWIND Act was not included” in the House coronavirus bill.

Read more about what the environmentalists were pushing for here and read more about the new group formed by former Inslee staffers here


PARK IT: House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) says that sufficient safety measures have not been put in place at national parks reopening following coronavirus-related closures. 

After President Trump said last month that he wanted to open the parks, locations such as Everglades National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park have taken steps to do so. 

Grijalva, in a letter Friday to the heads of the National Park Service (NPS) and Interior Department, referenced reports of overcrowding.

“There have already been reports of overcrowding and visitors entering blocked-off areas that were closed off to comply with federal social distancing guidelines,” he wrote. “At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, parking lots were immediately overfilled by visitors originating from 24 different states, many without masks.”

“Evidently, the safeguards the NPS has implemented to protect employee and visitor safety at reopened sites are wholly insufficient to protect public health,” Grijalva added. 

The lawmaker and others on the Natural Resources panel have previously questioned the department on its plans to reopen national parks, writing that it is “crucial that any decisions to reopen national parks and other public land sites prioritize the health and safety of visitors, employees, and local communities.”

Public health experts have previously expressed concern to The Hill about reopening the national parks. They said that doing so could make the virus harder to track if more people are crossing state lines, adding it could strain local health systems. 

Read more on the letter here



On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the EPA. Administrator Andrew Wheeler is slated to appear. 

Also on Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a nomination hearing for Mark Menezes, President Trump’s pick for the number two role at the Energy Department. 



Trump administration to hold ‘virtual meetings’ on oil drilling – but tribes affected have limited internet, The Independent reports

Ethanol industry feels pandemic’s impact, AgriNews reports

NOAA study says climate change, pollution impacts hurricane formation in the Atlantic, The Miami Herald reports

‘It Could Happen Anytime’: Scientists Warn of Alaska Tsunami Threat, The New York Times reports


ICYMI: Stories from Friday…

Ex-Inslee staffers launch climate group with $1.5T stimulus proposal

Green groups wish Democrats had gone bigger with relief bill

House Democrats seek to codify environmental inequality mapping tool

Analysis: Oil companies have received $1.9B in tax benefits under coronavirus stimulus

Democrat says national park reopening measures ‘wholly insufficient to protect public health

Tags Andrew Wheeler Donald Trump Jared Huffman Jay Inslee Jeff Merkley

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