More than 5,600 fossil fuel companies have received at least $ 3 billion in US Covid-19 aid | Fossil fuels
More than 5,600 companies in the fossil fuel sector have taken a minimum of $ 3 billion in coronavirus aid from the U.S. federal government, according to Documented and the Guardian analysis of recently released data.
Businesses include oil and gas drillers and coal mine operators, as well as refiners, pipeline companies, and companies that provide services to the industry.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) on Monday released the data under pressure for transparency, including from media that had for follow-up requiring public records.
The $ 3 billion figure is probably much lower than what companies actually received. The SBA did not disclose the specific loan amounts and instead listed the ranges. On the high end, fossil fuel companies could have received as much as $ 6.7 billion. At least 475 fossil fuel companies have received at least $ 2 million, according to data the SBA released and collected from banks.
This analysis only includes loans over $ 150,000 because the SBA did not disclose which companies received smaller loans.
Fossil fuel companies are not prevented from taking the Paycheck Protection Program (P3) forgivable loans, designed to be used to continue paying employees and to cover recurring bills during the pandemic. But conservationists say investing billions in an industry that pollutes the planet and causes the climate crisis is short-sighted and a misuse of public money.
“Federal aid should help small businesses and frontline workers struggling with the pandemic, not polluting businesses whose struggles are the result of long-standing failed business practices,” said Melinda Pierce, director Sierra Club Legislative.
The Guardian attempted to contact all of the companies cited in this article for comment and did not receive a response by the deadline.
Several of the companies that received loans of at least $ 5 million reported having 500 employees, which is the upper limit of what the government considers a small business. One was the Navajo Transitional Energy Company, which owns four mines, including one in Navajo Nation territory that supplies coal to the large Four Corners coal-fired power plant. The plant is managed by Arizona Public Service Co, which will close it in 2031 under its coal contract expired.
Eastern Ohio coal company CCU Coal and Construction, which said it had 148 employees, also took at least $ 5 million. Last year, the company announced plans to cut half of its workforce, or 205 jobs, because American Electric Power is shutting down a plant it supplies coal to in Conesville.
The Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, which is owned by customers and not by investors, also got at least $ 5 million. He announced earlier this year that he would withdraw the plug from a long delayed Kansas coal power project.
The list of recipients who obtained at least $ 5 million also included oil drillers. Four were listed as Top 10 Texas drilling rig operators at the end of last year: Independence Contract Drilling, Latshaw Drilling Company, NorAm Drilling Company and Scandrill.
Jesse Coleman, researcher for Documented, said: “We shouldn’t be wasting taxpayer dollars on an industry that is booming of its own manufacturing, especially when it appears to be intent on bringing down the entire planet. with her.
A separate review by watchdog Accountable.US and the Guardian found millions of dollars in coronavirus aid also went to companies with histories of significant environmental violations.
Pacific Ethanol, a California company that makes biofuel blended with gasoline, took $ 9.9 million. Several Pacific Ethanol facilities have been cited for breaking water and air pollution laws year after year, racking up $ 2.6 million in environmental fines over the past five years, according to a database. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data.
In 2017, the Sierra Club sued the company, arguing that its bioethanol plant in Beijing, Ill., Had “brazenly and consistently violated its license to pollute water for years, “releasing hot, polluted sewage into the Illinois River.
Rob Weinstock, an environmental attorney who worked on the Illinois v Pacific Ethanol case, said the company has repeatedly failed to correct problems at its Beijing plant and has blocked off regulators asking permission to conduct a study on the effects of discharging warmer water into the river, and then delaying this study.
Paul Koehler, spokesman for Pacific Ethanol, disputed EPA data showing the company was fined $ 2.6 million, claiming it was fined less than half of this amount and that many sanctions were linked to problems that she had self-declared.
He said the company produces low-carbon renewable fuel and aims to reduce emissions. Many conservationists, however, argue that growing corn to produce ethanol to mix with gasoline damages the environment and still results in air pollution.
Koehler said most of the company’s breaches over the past five years have been in California and stemmed from equipment failures that Pacific Ethanol has self-declared in trying to fix.
A second company, Perma-Fix Environmental Services, a waste management company, took out a loan of $ 5.7 million. He has been fined $ 390,000 in the past five years, according to the EPA database. Perma-Fix saw its income in May increase 112% at $ 24.9 million, compared to the same period last year. This works out to about $ 1.2 million for shareholders.
A third company, chemicals maker LSB Industries, received $ 10 million. LSB Industries has incurred $ 236,000 in federal environmental fines since 2015, according to the EPA. In 2014, the company and its subsidiaries paid $ 725,000 in penalties to address alleged federal and state air quality violations at 10 nitric acid plants in four states, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas.
In total, at least nine companies that have been fined for environmental violations in the past five years have received $ 35 million. These figures are based on the filings of publicly traded companies in regulatory filings. The total total is probably much higher.
There are no restrictions on companies with environmental violations accepting PPP loans, but liability experts say the government should scrutinize them carefully before disbursing aid.
“It all comes down to a question of financial responsibility,” said Chris Saeger, director of strategic initiatives at Accountable.US.
“If you’ve proven that you’re bad with money, if you’ve proven that you are costing your shareholders and your business because of environmental violations, then you’re probably not going to be accountable to us, the taxpayers.