Oil Accountability Project

Today, the GOP blocked the energy bill because it included new taxes on oil companies. It was blocked because it included billions of dollars in new taxes on the biggest oil companies.

The Democratic leaders fell one vote short, 59-40, in getting the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster. And in order to move the bill forward, Democrats said they would strip the taxes from the legislation. Reid of Nevada revised energy package would include the first increase in automobile fuel efficiency in three decades and massive increases in the use of ethanol as a motor fuel, but it will "eliminate the tax title."

And thus, the Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky predicted the revised bill would be approved with wide bipartisan support.

Here are is the list of compromises already made to the bill:

  • Senate Democrats earlier dropped a House-passed provision that would have required investor-owned utilities nationwide to generate 15 percent of their electricity from solar, wind and other renewable sources.

  • The mandate was fought by the electric utility industry and, especially the Atlanta-based Southern Co. They argued that the mandate would lead to higher electricity costs, especially in regions that do not have an abundance of wind or solar energy, such as the Southeast.

  • The oil companies had pressed lawmakers to oppose repeal of the $13.5 billion in tax breaks provided them by Congress in 2004 and 2005. They argued the tax relief was essential as an incentive for domestic oil and gas production and refinery expansion and that rolling back the tax breaks would lead to higher energy prices.

Democrats released a report by the Joint Economic Committee on Wednesday that concluded that rescinding the tax breaks would have no impact on production decisions or "have any effect on consumer prices for oil and gas."

There's a website up called the Oil Accountability Project that MyDD is partnering with to dive into and expose the issue.

It's exposed that last year's Abramoff/Safavian/Ney scandal revealed a number of massive scandals in the Department of Interior. But they were just the tip of the iceberg. Even though the spotlight has faded a bit, the litanies of scandals, rip-off and handout to big oil continues. Especially at the Minerals Management Service -- the part of the DOI that is supposed to collect royalties from oil companies who are extracting resources from our public lands.

However, for the past six years, government whistleblowers have alleged that a lack of oversight, deficient procedures, and cozy industry ties between MMS officials and oil and gas companies have created a system that allows the companies to underpay the federal government for scarce resources extracted from public lands.

On September 19th, DOI Inspector General Earl Devaney echoed these concerns in his report "Minerals Management Service (MMS): False Claims Allegations." The report describes a process systemically plagued by ethical lapses, process failures, mismanagement and conflicts of interest. The IG report highlights the need for vigorous oversight of the oil and gas industry with an eye towards real accountability.

Taxpayers for Common Sense and Project on Government Oversight assert the MMS's closeness with its clients taints its mission to pursue uncollected royalties for the Treasury. This has been especially true, they say, in the six years since the Bush administration instituted a new process called "compliance review." Beth Daley, an investigator for Project on Government Oversight, said there has been a fundamental change with auditors being told not to audit oil companies that hold federal leases: "It was never a great culture, but it has taken a turn for the worse." Before, the agency relied more on auditing to determine whether proper royalties were being levied and paid.

As a result of these alleged abuses, whistleblowers have brought forth legal actions claiming oil and gas companies systematically undervalue the amount and value of resources removed from public and Native American lands, with one case (Burlington Resources) recently settling for more than $97 million. Evidence in these cases suggests oil companies prefer to risk federal penalties rather than pay the actual amounts owed since the prospect of real penalties (particularly under this Administration) stands so remote.

The question to ask is if we have any reason to believe things will be any different under a Democratic president? Of course we all hope so, but will the candidates go on the record pledging to end the sloppy and corrupt practices at the DOI that are costing us all millions and millions of dollars?

Tags: Oil Accountability Project (all tags)



Friends of the Earth gets it right

Friends of the Earth:

Friends of the Earth Action President Brent Blackwelder released the following statement in response to reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to further weaken the energy bill after failing to achieve cloture on an already-weakened version of the bill earlier today:

"It's clear that Democratic capitulation isn't limited to Iraq. When the Republican leadership and the polluter lobby have blocked important legislation, Senate Democrats have been all too willing to move in their direction. The result is that the two most positive provisions of the energy bill--a clean energy mandate and a tax package reining in handouts for fossil fuels and promoting clean energy--are being removed while detrimental provisions, such as a radical five-fold increase in unsustainable biofuel use, remain.

"This is the wrong approach. Instead of capitulating, the Senate Democrats should show some backbone. If Republicans want to block progress on clean energy and global warming, they should be forced to mount a real filibuster--for weeks if necessary. If President Bush and Republican senators persist in their obstruction, Democrats should pull the energy bill from the floor and make it an issue at the ballot box instead. Let's be clear. What the Republicans are doing here is morally repugnant. They are jeopardizing our children's future in order to help corporate polluters make more money. The American people have signaled that they want a different direction, and Democrats should not yield to this obstruction.

"The basic truth is that our system of energy production and consumption is wholly unsustainable, and dramatic changes are needed or we risk a systemic collapse. Unfortunately, we are not yet getting the bold leadership from the Senate that is required to bring about these changes."

(I added the bolding.)

by The Cunctator 2007-12-13 12:03PM | 0 recs
Arlen Specter, hypocrite

Arlen Specter is happy to sign letters telling the President to do more about global warming, but when he's given to cast the deciding vote on Exxon versus renewable energy, he protects oil at the cost of the planet.

Yesterday Arlen Specter signed a Congressional letter to the President criticizing the U.S. Bali delegation for its blind intransigence to solving global warming:

The clear implication is that the United States will refuse to agree to any language putting the United States on an established path toward scientifically-based emission limits. . . We write to express our strong disagreement with these positions and to urge you to direct the U.S. negotiating team to work together with other countries to complete a roadmap with a clear objective sufficient to combat global warming. The United States must adopt negotiating positions at the Bali Conference of the Parties that are designed to propel further progress - not fuel additional delay.

This morning he cast the deciding vote against cloture on the energy bill to preserve billions of subsidies for Big Oil and to kill renewable energy funding and research, just what Bush demanded.

by The Cunctator 2007-12-13 12:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Oil Accountability Project

Harry Reid should be fired.  The man has been a disaster.

by Piuma 2007-12-13 12:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Oil Accountability Project

You got that right.

by Toddwell 2007-12-13 01:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Oil Accountability Project

I guess it really isnt is fault.  Im not sure what he can do.  I just wish he was a little more forceful.  

by Toddwell 2007-12-13 01:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Oil Accountability Project

Well, for one thing, it wasn't the Republicans, as this post asserts, it was the Republicans AND MARY LANDREIU.  And instead of putting pressure on the single vote we need, who also happens to be the most endangered Democrat and someone Reid should have quite a lot of leverage against, he's rolling over.

by Sam L 2007-12-13 02:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Oil Accountability Project

The most endangered Democrat is someone we have very little leverage over.  Their survival is not only their priority, it is ours as well.  It does Harry Reid no good to give up that seat to a Republican in 2008.

It always disturbs me how the netroots will consistently ignore the dozens of Republican votes against a measure in favor of berating the one or two Democrats who cross over.  Yes, they're bad Democrats, but Republicans are the far greater problem.

by Steve M 2007-12-13 10:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Oil Accountability Project

Actually if the establishment threatend Mary that they can destroy her abiity to collect funds for her reelection, where will she turn to?

She needs the seat just as much as the DEmocrats.

by Pravin 2007-12-14 12:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Oil Accountability Project

The leadership could also kidnap her kids and hold them hostage, which is about as reasonable as what you're suggesting.  Tom DeLay got admonished by the Ethics Committee for making a similar threat.

If you want to go nuclear on one of your own Senators, this certainly isn't the issue to do it over.  Hold a gun to their head when it's time to pass universal health care, maybe, but not because now you're going to have to compromise on some taxes in the energy bill.

by Steve M 2007-12-14 03:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Oil Accountability Project

I thought Delay's problem was he was diverting funds from federal to state committees when not allowed. I did not realize  he was admonished for saying they won't cooperate with a local candidate in helping them fundraise.

by Pravin 2007-12-15 11:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Oil Accountability Project

Even had Landrieu voted Yea, I doubt that the total number would have changed.  

Republicans in favor were: Coleman (MN), Collins (ME), Grassley (IA), Hatch (UT), Lugar (IN), Murkowski (AK), Smith (OR), Snowe (ME), and Thune (SD)

Some of these are surprising to me, some are not.  Specter, as has been noted, voted Nay, which many believe is hypocritical (count me in that bunch).  I am sure that the Republican leadership could have pulled at least one more of these off to their side.  However, I am sure that the vote provides a nice bit of political cover for Coleman, Collins, and Smith.

I am not saying that I support Landrieu's vote -- quite the contrary actually.  We need to make sure that Democrats are taking the correct position, which she failed to do, and putting pressure on the Republicans.  Her vote of convenience hurts the campaign of an insurgent Democrat in another state that was deprived of this as an issue.  

However, that being said, this bill in this form did not have a chance.

by Blue Bear 2007-12-13 03:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Oil Accountability Project

Watch Who Killled the Electric Car. Very few prominent Democrats are shown making any great effort in saving therse cars.

Good leadership is more than holding the right positions. It is the ability to motivate and mobilize the masses in demanding that these positions be honored.

by Pravin 2007-12-14 12:12AM | 0 recs


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