Lawmakers Pushing Big Financial Break For Oil Got $4M In Industry Donations

Fifteen House lawmakers pushing for the Trump administration to throw oil a lifeline amid the coronavirus pandemic have obtained a collective $4.14 million from the fossil fuel industry over their careers.

They’re urging the reduction or elimination of royalties for offshore drilling operations ― payments that companies make to the government to extract oil and gas from public lands and waters. Drillers pay a share of the resource’s value, with the amount of money going to invest in schools, roads, conservation projects and much more.

Offshore drillers pay a 12.5% royalty rate for leases in water depths of less than 200 meters. The speed for all the offshore leases is 18.75%.

Both an overseas price battle between Saudi Arabia and Russia and a steep decline in global demand due to the coronavirus outbreak have pummeled U.S. producers, mailing prices to an 18-year low the other day.

Overdue Friday, 13 Republicans and one Democrat, most from Texas and Louisiana, sent a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt urging him to “examine the viability of an temporary decrease in royalties as local energy producers weather this combination of any [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries]-driven price war and an epidemic that is traveling millions of men and women around the world into quarantines of 1 kind or another.” Doing so, they added, “can help mitigate a price war that is sinking prices and decreasing production.”

A lot more than one-fifth of the total $4.14 million in campaign donations ― almost $900,000 ― has come in the 2020 election cycle. The info is from the guts for Reactive Politics, a nonprofit that compiles and tracks campaign donations.

The $4.14 million includes all fossil fuel money that the 14 members of Congress who signed the letter received, plus Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), who the other day told The Washington Examiner he also planned to ask the inside Department to make use of its authorities to use a short-term decrease in royalty rates for companies drilling on federal lands and waters.

Over fifty percent the total, practically $2.4 million, came from fossil fuel industry political action committees, as the rest was from individuals, based on the Centre for Responsive Politics data.

The oil and gas sector is a top-five contributing industry to all or any but two of the 15 lawmakers.

“These customers’ choice to stand with Big Oil rather than the people struggling most from the COVID-19 outbreak is despicable,” Collin Rees, a senior campaigner at environmentally friendly group Oil Change USA, said within an email Tuesday. He noted that the U.S. gives more than $20 billion in subsidies to oil, gas, and coal companies every year and that fossil fuel interests spend millions to get ally politicians elected.

“This is yet another damning exemplory case of the dirty energy money cycle at play, and the solution should be a specific rejection of dirty money by our elected leaders,” he said.

Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), right, was one of 14 House lawmakers who agreed upon a letter Friday contacting the Trump administration to temporarily slash federal coal and oil royalties for offshore drilling operators.
The greatest chunk of the fossil fuel money went to Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), the previous CEO of coal and oil company Phoenix Exploration. Over his five conditions in Congress, Flores has raked in $1.17 million from the coal and oil sector, more than any other industry. That includes roughly $66,000 from Chevron, $59,000 from Energy Future Holdings LLC and $56,000 from Koch Industries, his top-three all-time contributors.

Below are the letter signatories and the total amount they may have fundraised from the fossil fuel industry over their careers:

Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-Texas) ― $455,152
Rep. Randy K. Weber (R-Texas) ― $326,650
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) ― $278,350
Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) ― $218,592
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) ― $210,755
Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) ― $194,900
Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) ― $171,700
Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) ― $126,832
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) ― $109,784
Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) ― $95,850
Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.) ― $67,253
Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) ― $64,125
Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas) ― $36,750
Graves, who didn’t sign Friday’s letter to Bernhardt, has taken $615,835 in oil and gas money over his career in Congress, including $409,033 from industry PACs.

“It is in the country wide interest to sustain the coal and oil industry to fight this economical warfare via nation-states and a decrease in demand globally because of coronavirus,” Graves told the Washington Examiner last week. “There has to be a countrywide response. We can’t just dump this all on the lap of industry.”

Going back three years, U.S. oil and gas producers have enjoyed an “energy dominance”-obsessed Trump administration that has propped the industry at every turn by slashing environmental regulations, downplaying the risk of local climate change and attempting to expand drilling on federal lands and in offshore waters. Now facing collapsing energy prices that risk bankrupting small producers, the industry has considered the administration for financial relief to stay afloat.

The Trump administration has barreled forward with oil and gas lease sales on federal lands and vowed to acquire tens of an incredible number of barrels of crude oil from U.S. producers, enough to fill the nation’s emergency reserve to capacity.

“We’re heading to fill it right up to the top, saving the American taxpayer billions and vast amounts of dollars, helping our oil industry and making us even more toward that wonderful goal, which we’ve achieved, which nobody thought was possible, of energy independence,” Trump said throughout a March 13 press conference.

It really is unclear if the inside Department is considering lawmakers’ demand to cut royalties. The agency didn’t immediately react to HuffPost’s request for comment Tuesday.

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