WASHINGTON, May 19, 2020 — The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Treasury Department today for failing to release applications from the oil, gas, coal and plastics industries for federal COVID-19 relief funding under the CARES Act.
The Center requested the public records in April through the Freedom of Information Act, but the agency has failed to provide any response. The CARES Act provides more than $450 billion in condition-free financial aid for “distressed sectors” of the economy. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin can disburse the funds as he sees fit.
“The Trump administration is stonewalling the public about how $450 billion of taxpayer money is being spent,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center. “We have a right to know if polluters and Trump’s special-interest cronies are cashing in on this windfall while millions of people suffer like never before.”
Within minutes of signing the $2.2 trillion CARES Act into law, President Trump issued a signing statement indicating that he would not comply with key aspects of the required congressional oversight for the emergency coronavirus response. Without this oversight Mnuchin can bail out the fossil fuel industry without any meaningful accountability or transparency.
To date the Treasury Department has failed to provide any meaningful information on how much funding the fossil fuel industry has requested from the Trump administration or how much it has received.
Most of the $450 billion in emergency COVID-19 aid for businesses is likely to go to the fossil fuel industry, since only airlines are anticipating losses on the same scale. Fossil fuel companies already receive more than $20 billion in subsidies every year from federal taxpayers, an amount vastly exceeding any other industry in the United States.
“Mnuchin is supposed to work for the people of this country, not climate-killing polluters,” said Hartl. “He needs to obey the law and let the public know how our government is behaving during this crisis.”