POLITICS
07/24/2020 05:45 EDT | Updated 07/24/2020 11:55 EDT

‘It’s Past Time’: Rep. Ilhan Omar, Sen. Bernie Sanders Unveil Bill To Strip Fossil Fuel Funding

The legislation aims to cut off oil, gas and coal companies reaping billions from federal COVID-19 relief and annual subsidies.

In the richest and most powerful nation in history, doctors beg for basic protective gear amid a deadly pandemic, 21% of children live in poverty and 84-year-olds take jobs scrubbing motel toilets to survive. 

Yet, as fossil fuel emissions cook the planet and wreak a mounting toll of destruction, the federal government gives oil, gas and coal companies nearly $15 billion per year in direct federal subsidies and already directed billionsmore in support through coronavirus relief programs this year. 

New legislation from five of the country’s top progressive lawmakers, including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), aims to cut the fossil fuel industry off, HuffPost has learned. 

On Friday, the lawmakers plan to introduce a bill barring fossil fuel companies from receiving COVID-19 funding, ending federal support for fossil fuel projects at home and abroad, and abolishing dozens of tax loopholes and incentives for the industry. 

“It’s past time we end the billions of taxpayer subsidies to fossil-fuel companies,” Omar said in a statement. “Our focus right now needs to be on getting the American people through this difficult, unprecedented time, not providing giveaways to polluters.”

The bill, dubbed the End Polluter Welfare Act of 2020, is unlikely to gain much traction in Congress, where the House is controlled by business-friendly Democrats and Republicans hold the Senate. Even if it passed against all odds, President Donald Trump, a fossil fuel hard-liner, would almost certainly veto it. 

But the legislation ― co-authored in the House by Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) and by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) ― collates the federal fossil fuel support in one place, painting a target on the sources of funding for future legislative efforts.  

The bill also calls for a halt to research spending on fossil fuels and financing for new projects overseas. The authors estimate the legislation would save $150 billion over the next decade, money it would earmark for subsidizing poor Americans’ utility bills and guaranteeing the Black Lung Disability Fund for coal miners. 

“At a time when we are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and an economic decline, it is absurd to provide billions of taxpayer subsidies that pad fossil-fuel companies’ already-enormous profits,” Sanders said in an emailed statement. “Big Oil made more than $2 trillion in profits over the last two decades. We need more safe, healthy, good paying jobs — not more corporate polluter giveaways.”

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