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Up to $6.7 Billion in U.S. Pandemic Relief Handed to 5,600 Fossil Companies

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Environmentalists and accountability watchdogs are crying foul over revelations that more than 5,600 fossil companies have taken billions in federal coronavirus aid earmarked for small businesses.

Citing in-house analysis produced in partnership with the corporate watchdog Documented—and using data reluctantly released to public scrutiny by the U.S. Small Business Administration—The Guardian reports the fossils received at least US$3 billion and “probably” far more: “on the high end, fossil fuel companies could have received up to $6.7 billion.”

While fossil companies are technically eligible for Paycheck Protection Program loans, which do not need to be paid back provided certain conditions are met, environmental advocates like the U.S. Sierra Club are deeply indignant that demonstrably poor public citizens with self-made financial woes that predate the pandemic should be lining up with front-line workers whose livelihoods, and lives, are in genuine jeopardy.

“Federal aid should be going to help small businesses and front-line workers struggling as a result of the pandemic, not the corporate polluters whose struggles are a result of longstanding failing business practices,” said Sierra Club Legislative Director Melinda Pierce.

Numerous coal and fracking interests—whose fortunes were clearly waning long before the coronavirus arrived—received bailouts. And several companies whose 500-employee payrolls clearly stretch the definition of “small business” have also benefited from the funding.

“We should not be wasting taxpayer dollars on an industry that’s in a tailspin of its own making, especially when it seems intent on bringing the whole planet down with it,” said Jesse Coleman, a researcher with Documented. 

Adding to the outrage at fossils drilling down into pandemic relief funds is the fact that many millions of dollars have gone to companies who have been cited or sued for breaking air and water pollution laws. Citing another data review it conducted in partnership with the watchdog Accountable.US, The Guardian describes how, in 2017, the Sierra Club sued Pacific Ethanol, arguing that an Illinois River biofuel-gasoline plant run by the California-based company had been in “brazen” violation of its water pollution permit for years.

Despite accumulating $2.6 million in environmental fines over the last five years, Pacific Ethanol received $9.9 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans.

“In total, at least nine companies that were fined for environmental violations in the last five years have been awarded $35 million,” writes The Guardian. The full total of pandemic relief these companies have availed themselves of “is probably far higher,” the paper adds.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 13, 2020 12:06 pm GMT

These are the same fossil fuel companies and advocates that will plead with the public that we shouldn't be picking winners & losers when it comes to PTCs & ITCs for renewables

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