Lawmakers Pushing Big Financial Break For Oil Got $35 Million In Industry Donations

Amid a global pandemic, members of Congress look to throw a lifeline to the industry that bankrolled their campaigns.

More than 70 members of Congress pushing for the Trump administration to throw oil a lifeline during the coronavirus pandemic have received a collective $35.7 million from the fossil fuel industry over their careers.

They’re urging the reduction or elimination of royalties for drilling operations ― payments that oil and gas companies make to the federal government to extract oil and gas from public lands and waters. Drillers pay a percentage of the resource’s value, with the money going to fund schools, roads, conservation projects and more.

“These members’ choice to stand with Big Oil rather than the people suffering most from the COVID-19 outbreak is despicable,” Collin Rees, a senior campaigner at the environmental group Oil Change USA, said in an email to HuffPost. He noted that the U.S. gives more than $20 billion in subsidies to oil, gas and coal companies each year and that fossil fuel interests spend millions to get ally politicians elected.

“This is yet another damning example of the dirty energy money cycle at play, and the solution has to be a clear rejection of dirty money by our elected leaders,” Rees said.

Offshore drillers pay a 12.5% royalty rate for leases in water depths of less than 200 meters. The rate for all other offshore oil and gas leases is 18.75%, and onshore drillers pay 12.5% to extract from federal lands.

Both an overseas price battle between Saudi Arabia and Russia and a steep decline in global demand due to the coronavirus outbreak have pummeled U.S. producers, sending prices to an 18-year low last month.

Sixty-one House lawmakers — 60 Republicans and 1 Democrat — have signed on to at least one of three letters to date calling for the Trump administration to cut royalties on fossil fuel extraction.

“If this market does not stabilize soon, we risk rolling back the success of the U.S. energy industry over the past decade, which will have a disastrous effect on America’s economy and jeopardize our energy security,” reads one letter, sent to Trump on Thursday and signed by 42 members of the House.

Below are the signatories of the House letters and the amount each has fundraised from the fossil fuel industry over their careers:

  • Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) — $1,169,573

  • Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) — $615,835

  • Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-Texas) ― $455,152

  • Rep. Randy K. Weber (R-Texas) ― $326,650

  • Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) ― $278,350

  • Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) ― $218,592

  • Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) ― $210,755

  • Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) ― $194,900

  • Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) ― $171,700

  • Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) ― $126,832

  • Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) ― $109,784

  • Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) ― $95,850

  • Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.) ― $67,253

  • Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) ― $64,125

  • Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas) ― $36,750

  • Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) — $54,900

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — $1,955,325

  • Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) — $501,254

  • Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — $398,125

  • Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) — $1,507,142

  • Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) — $296,100

  • Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ariz.) — $115,572

  • Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) — $321,439

  • Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) — $467,703

  • Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) — $1,217,801

  • Rep. Fred Keller (R-Penn.) — $18,550

  • Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) — $245,159

  • Rep. Paul Cook (R-Calif.) — $60,300

  • Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) — $127,789

  • Rep. Rick W. Allen (R-Ga.) — $68,050

  • Rep. Jodey C. Arrington (R-Texas) — $246,578

  • Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) — $1,571,434

  • Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) — $723,450

  • Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) — $963,050

  • Rep. Scott Perry (R-Penn.) — $131,950

  • Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) — $211,009

  • Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.) — $144,816

  • Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) — $73,007

  • Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.)— $58,000

  • Rep. W. Gregory Steube (R-Fla.) — $5,000

  • Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) — $63,000

  • Rep. David B. McKinley (R-W.Va.) — $399,325

  • Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Ohio) — $143,805

  • Rep. Ron Wright (R-Texas) — $27,859

  • Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) — $1,492,347

  • Rep. Robert E. Latta (R-Ohio) — $417,333

  • Rep. Alex X. Mooney (R-W.Va.) — $117,226

  • Rep. Ron Estes (R-Kan.) — $194,575

  • Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) — $105,900

  • Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) ― $949,302

  • Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Penn.) ― $43,000

  • Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) — $77,800

  • Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) — $47,900

  • Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas) — $63,750

  • Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.) — $34,516

  • Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho) — $0

  • Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) — $74,209

  • Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) — $618,723

  • Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) — $745,425

  • Rep. Carol D. Miller (R-W. Va.) — $14,500

  • Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) — $371,909

Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), right, was one of 14 House lawmakers who signed a letter March 20 calling on the Trump administration to temporarily slash federal oil and gas royalties for offshore drilling operators.
Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), right, was one of 14 House lawmakers who signed a letter March 20 calling on the Trump administration to temporarily slash federal oil and gas royalties for offshore drilling operators.
Tom Williams via Getty Images

A dozen Republican senators sent their own letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Monday calling for the secretary to “reduce, delay or suspend” royalty payments for oil, gas and coal companies operating on public lands. “Without these measures,” the group wrote, “it is likely that many of these companies will cease production, which could cost thousands of jobs and threaten American energy security.”

Together, those senators have raked in more than $14 million from the fossil fuel industry over their careers, according to the Center for Responsive Politics data. Here is a breakdown:

  • Sen. John Cornyn of (R-Texas) — $4,067,906

  • Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) — $2,139,220

  • Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) — $1,554,805

  • Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) — $1,174,330

  • Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) — $1,145,191

  • Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) — $893,247

  • Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) — $857,079

  • Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) — $683,078

  • Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) — $658,524

  • Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) — $530,583

  • Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) — $357,295

  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) — $111,818

The oil and gas sector is among the top five contributing industries to 52 of the 73 lawmakers listed above.

For the last three years, U.S. oil and gas producers have enjoyed an “energy dominance”-obsessed Trump administration that has propped up the industry at every turn by slashing environmental regulations, downplaying the threat of climate change and working to expand drilling on federal lands and in offshore waters. Now facing collapsing energy prices that risk bankrupting small producers, the industry has turned to the administration for financial relief to stay afloat.

The administration has barreled forward with oil and gas lease sales on federal lands during the pandemic. And during a coronavirus briefing Tuesday at the White House, Trump said he had “great” conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about the oil price situation.

“We’re going to see what we can do because you don’t want to lose an industry,” Trump said, adding that “the two countries are discussing it, and I am joining at the appropriate time if need be.”

It is unclear if the Interior Department is considering lawmakers’ request to cut royalties. The agency did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.

Trump is slated to host executives of major oil and gas giants, including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corporation, at the White House on Friday to discuss ways to protect their industry.

This article has been updated to include additional members of Congress who are calling for federal royalty cuts.

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