5 May 2020

Collin Rees, collin [at]
Jamie Henn, jamie [at]

ReWIND Act Will Help Make Sure Money Gets to People, Not Polluters

Climate, social justice, and progressive groups applaud the new ReWIND Act as an important measure to prevent a Big Oil Bailout 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hundreds of environmental, social justice, labor, and progressive organizations applauded the release of the ReWIND Act, new legislation introduced today that would block a Big Oil Bailout and ensure relief money flows to people, not polluters. 

“The ReWIND Act is critical to ensure relief funds are flowing directly to frontline workers and communities, not being hijacked by Big Oil CEOs,” said Collin Rees, Senior Campaigner at Oil Change International. “We’re thankful for champions like Rep. Barragán and Sen. Merkley, and we urge Congress to include these protections in the next stimulus package and focus on supporting workers instead of billionaire executives.”

The Resources for Workforce Investments, Not Drilling Act (ReWIND Act) was introduced by Congressmembers Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA), Pramila Jayapal (WA), Ilhan Omar (MN), Jared Huffman (CA) and Senators Jeff Merkley (OR), Bernie Sanders (VT), and Ed Markey (MA). The bill would block many of the fossil fuel industry’s attempts to hijack coronavirus relief efforts intended to help working families and small businesses, not multi-billion dollar oil, gas, and coal companies. 

“It would be unconscionable to bail out big oil and gas corporations with money intended to help families, workers and small businesses survive this global pandemic,” said Representative Nanette Diaz Barragán. “The CARES Act passed to help Americans struggling to make it through the COVID-19 public health crisis — not to make it easier for fossil fuel companies to drive us closer to climate catastrophe.”

“Our economic recovery from the coronavirus must be built from the ground up — with good, family-supporting jobs in sustainable industries,” said Senator Jeff Merkley. “At a time of crisis, we cannot afford to use our public resources to make bad investments in industries that are not only financially risky, but are destroying our planet.”

On April 20, over 330 organizations sent a letter to Congress demanding politicians: put healthcare workers and all people on the frontlines of COVID-19 first in the emergency response; ensure that federal assistance support people, not the fossil fuel industry; ensure that recovery funds provide a just transition for fossil fuels workers and communities economically dependent on declining fossil fuel production; and conduct exhaustive oversight of the Trump Administration and financial sector. 

“Protecting our families in this time of crisis must be the priority right now, not lining the pockets of fossil fuel executives,” said Kelly Martin, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. “We applaud Sen. Merkley and Rep. Barragán for their leadership in ensuring that relief funds go towards supporting vulnerable communities, not corporate polluters.” 

The ReWIND act would: prevent oil, gas and coal companies from gaining access to stimulus money through the Federal Reserve or Treasury; prohibit discretionary royalty relief; ban bank holding companies from taking over distressed oil and gas companies; ban CARES Act fund recipients from securing new fossil fuel leases; ban the Interior Department from modifying or loosening oil, gas, or coal regulations during the state of emergency; ban fossil fuel bailouts under the Defense Production Act; and extend all comment periods and ban new non-COVID rulemaking processes until at least 30 days past the end of the state of emergency. 

“The ReWIND Act offers an excellent opportunity allowing us to fast-forward to a regenerative economy that’s not subjected to the boom and bust cycle of fossil fuel cartels,” said Anthony Rogers-Wright, Policy Coordinator with Climate Justice Alliance. “Sen. Merkley has been a long time champion for climate justice, we applaud his efforts along with Rep. Barragán, both understand that the people are not going to accommodate the bailout of an industry that’s killing people, planet and climate alike. At this time we need to center the people and the workers, not the corporations.”

Over 68,000 people in the United States have died due to the coronavirus outbreak, with the White House predicting a death total in excess of 100,000. Over 30 million people have filed initial unemployment claims, with millions still waiting to receive benefits. Thousands of small businesses are struggling with access to loans. Yet despite all this, the Trump Administration and Senate Republicans have prioritized handouts to allow multi-billion-dollar fossil fuel companies to pay down pre-existing debts with no relation to the pandemic. 

“Trump is using this moment of crisis to prop up fossil fuel executives who profit off of killing working class and black and brown communities. Rather than bailout corporate CEOs, we need to support fossil fuel workers and their families, and ensure they are put front and center in the transition to a more just and resilient economy,” said Lauren Maunus, Legislative Manager with Sunrise Movement. “We are grateful to have champions like Rep. Barragán and Sen. Merkley fighting alongside us to do so.” 

The ongoing production and burning of fossil fuels is a threat to climate, communities, and public health. Poor air quality has been linked to coronavirus impacts, but the Trump Administration continues to lift pollution regulations and reward the companies poisoning communities. It’s not a coincidence that the communities of color who are hardest hit by the coronavirus are also on the frontlines of the pollution caused by the fossil fuel industry: Oil, gas, and coal companies have profited from structural racism and inequality while driving it forward. 

“The ReWIND Act is exactly the message we need to send to the Trump administration and those in Congress who support fossil fuel corporations over everyday people. While unemployment is at an all time high due to COVID-19, Trump and his allies in Congress are working overtime to bailout the corporate oil and gas executives driving us deeper into climate disaster instead of those in need.” said Natalie Mebane, Associate Director of U.S. Policy at 350 Action. “We commend Representative Barragán and Senator Merkley for introducing this legislation to put people first and prevent polluters from manipulating this crisis for their own profits. We need to prioritize protections for workers and do everything possible to help communities that are most vulnerable during this pandemic.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, fossil fuel companies worked steadily to profit from the crisis. The industry has repeatedly lobbied the Trump Administration to lift all pollution regulations — not just for the duration of the crisis, but indefinitely. It has driven forward dangerous fossil fuel projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, despite the risk that outside workers bring to Indigenous communities along the project’s route. And it has lobbied for massive handouts in the form of royalty relief, tax breaks, and direct bailouts — on top of the estimated $20 billion in public money the industry receives in the form of subsidies for fossil fuel production every year. 

“Reckless corporate polluters that racked up billions in debt should get nothing from the rescue programs that are intended to put Americans back to work. Thanks to the leadership of Senator Merkley and Representative Barragan, this landmark legislation protects public resources from greedy fossil fuel profiteers, and can help America create a COVID recovery plan that prioritizes building a safe and healthy future for all,” said Mitch Jones, Policy Director for Food & Water Action.

Public dollars should be used to help people, not polluters. That includes workers and communities dependent on the fossil fuel industry — they deserve direct support, not a vague promise that money will ‘trickle down’ through notoriously corrupt corporations. Instead of giving handouts to the fossil fuel industry, the government should be investing in a sustainable future  with green priorities to make our communities stronger, safer, and more resilient. 

“Bailing out the fossil fuel industry is a complete slap in the face to the millions of people who have  lost their jobs, homes, livelihoods, and family members due to COVID-19. We cannot continue as we were — now more than ever we need to address the double crises of the coronavirus pandemic and climate chaos by centering the needs of people and planet. Legislation like the ReWIND Act is necessary for transitioning away from fossil fuels and supporting workers and our communities,” said Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN).


Additional Quotes: 

“Big Oil drilled itself into bankruptcy long before the coronavirus and now it wants a bailout,” said Lukas Ross, Senior Policy Analyst at Friends of the Earth. “We thank Senator Merkley and Representative Barragán for fighting back against this shameless cash-grab. We need a bailout for people, not polluters.”

“Rep. Barragán and Sen. Merkley’s ReWIND Act provides the decisive leadership we need to reject a fossil fuel bailout and the industry’s toxic legacy of polluting communities, endangering workers, and fueling the climate crisis,” said Ben Goloff, Climate Campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “All members of Congress need to choose a side: Will they bail out fossil fuel industry executives or protect workers and communities?”

“Trump needs to invite renewable energy executives to the White House, the same way he’s pandered to fossil fuel executives. Til then…ReWIND for America’s future,” said RL Miller of Climate Hawks Vote.

“After refusing to evolve and then driving their companies into the ground, oil CEOs are using COVID-19 as an opportunity to keep themselves afloat while workers suffer. The ReWIND Act is our best chance to stop the Trump Administration from bailing out the millionaires who created and profited off of the climate crisis. Right now we need to make sure all relief goes directly to workers and families, not corporate executives,” said John Noël, Senior Climate Campaigner, Greenpeace USA. 

“The oil and gas industry was already polluting your air and harming the climate with dangerous methane pollution. Now, industry and the Trump Administration are using a national emergency to get a taxpayer bailout,” said Aaron Mintzes, Senior Policy Counsel at Earthworks. “Senator Merkley and Rep Barragán’s ReWIND Act protects our health, climate, and purse from this fossil fuel giveaway. Their bill helps ensure our current health crisis does not fuel the existing climate crisis.”

“The ReWIND Act would ensure that taxpayer dollars go to people in need, not polluters in debt. The safeguards proposed by Senator Merkley and Representative Barragán should be included in any future stimulus package to prevent the oil, gas and coal industry from hijacking resources needed to protect workers and their families,” said Nikki Reisch, Director of the Climate & Energy Program at the Center for International Environmental Law. “Fossil fuels are a losing proposition for people and the planet. Scarce public resources shouldn’t go to bailing out an industry in long-term, structural decline, but to building up the clean energy future.”