WASHINGTON— More than 300 groups called on Congress today to demand that federal relief money be directed to people affected by the COVID-19 crisis and not to fossil fuel polluters.
The climate, environmental justice, faith, health, youth and other organizations that signed the letter cite the fossil fuel industry’s successful lobbying of Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency to suspend enforcement of pollution safeguards and warned against more concessions to polluters when Congress drafts its next relief bill.
Today’s letter calls on Congress to exclude the fossil fuel industry from receiving loans and other federal support, ensure affected fossil fuel workers are provided with assistance and labor protections for weathering a job transition, and bar financial institutions receiving loans or loan guarantees from using that money to finance fossil fuel infrastructure projects.
“It’s a moral outrage for fossil fuel executives to try to cash in while workers and communities suffer through a pandemic,” said Ben Goloff, climate campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We know the same people overburdened by fossil fuel pollution and the climate crisis are also endangered most by COVID-19. Congress must protect people, not a handful of profiteering polluters.”
The groups’ letter also calls for immediate protection of healthcare workers; a prohibition on federal handouts for the fossil fuel industry; direct support for fossil fuel workers and communities reliant on that industry; and vigorous monitoring of the Trump administration and the financial sector to ensure they do not boost the fossil fuel industry during the pandemic.
“Big Oil is in big trouble — the writing is on the wall and this extractive industry should not be saved by the people and communities it extracts from,” said Anthony Rogers-Wright, policy coordinator at Climate Justice Alliance. “While far too many want to restart the economy, this is the time to reshape it to one that is regenerative, accessible to all and leaves no one behind, including the numerous fossil fuel workers who are about to be laid off and left to fend for themselves.”
The letter notes that fossil fuel pollution disproportionately sickens black communities, indigenous communities and other communities of color, and that black people also are dying at disproportionate rates from the pandemic. Given the recent Harvard study linking air-pollution exposure to COVID-19 death rates, recovery efforts must reject bailouts for polluting industries and invest in these hardest-hit communities, according to today’s letter.
“Congress should focus on providing urgent relief to frontline workers and struggling families, not corporate donors or Wall Street,” said Nicole Ghio, senior fossil fuels program manager at Friends of the Earth. “We will not hesitate to hold members of Congress accountable for putting polluter profits over American lives.”
“For decades, the fossil fuel industry knowingly lied to the world that its product was harmless. Now, the world, and all its inhabitants, suffer tremendously from those lies. An estimated 10,000 people die per day from exposure to air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels. These oil barons deserve to be in jail, not receiving tax payer money!,” said Matt Remle (Lakota) and co-founder of Mazaska Talks
In the past four weeks, 22 million people have filed unemployment claims, with economists predicting the highest unemployment rates since the Great Depression.