Climate disasters: Hold Oil & gas firms liable. Industry retort,”It’s laughable.”

There’s a move in the American Congress to hold multi-national polluters financially liable for  environmental catastrophes.  

The chances of such legislation ever becoming law are virtually nil given the power of corporate energy companies.

Still it will engender a spirited debate about making those responsible for  these environmental disasters pay a price.

Oil & Gas Newswire (article in New York Times) 8.4.2021

Democrats in Congress want to tax Exxon, Chevron and a handful of other major oil and gas companies, saying the biggest climate polluters should pay for the floods, wildfires and other disasters that scientists have linked to the burning of fossil fuels.

The draft legislation from Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, directs the Treasury Department and the Environmental Protection Agency to identify the companies that released the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from 2000 to 2019 and assess a fee based on the amounts they emitted.

That could generate an estimated $500 billion over the next decade, according to Mr. Van Hollen. The money would pay for clean energy research and development as well as help communities face the flooding, fires and other disasters that scientists say are growing more destructive and frequent because of a warming planet.

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The bill for the largest polluters could be as much as $6 billion annually spread over 10 years, according to a draft of the plan.

The proposal comes as the Senate prepares to vote on a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure package that includes billions of dollars to help communities prepare for and recover from extreme weather driven by climate change. Democrats hope to later pass a separate $3.5 trillion budget package that will include measures to cut carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases.

A tax on polluting companies has the support of liberal lawmakers including Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, as well as Senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, all Democrats.

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Mr. Van Hollen says he is optimistic that his legislation will find broad support within his party and be attached to the budget reconciliation package, which Democrats hope to pass without Republican votes. But that would require all Democrats in the narrowly divided Senate to back the measure, including Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who has routinely argued against anti-fossil fuel legislation.

While several major oil companies, the Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute — the country’s largest oil and gas trade group — support a tax on carbon emissions, fossil fuel advocates said that targeting a handful of companies was unfair.

Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, which supports the expanded use of fossil fuels, questioned the legality of Mr. Van Hollen’s tax plan.

“It’s laughable,” he said.

Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times