Congressional Republicans let a tax on oil companies expire this week, giving the companies a big tax break (another one!) and taking money away from a federal oil spill response fund:
The tax on companies selling oil in the United States generated an average of $500 million in federal revenue per year, according to the Government Accountability Office. The money, collected through a 9 cents-per-barrel tax on domestic crude oil and imported crude oil and petroleum products, constituted the main source of revenue for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
The fund has at least $5.75 billion in reserve. Intended to help the government respond quickly to accidents on land or offshore, it was established in 1986 but only got a stable source of funding in the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.
The tax, which expired Sunday, had lapsed before but was renewed under the bipartisan 2005 Energy Policy Act. Federal officials recently had debated whether it should be expanded to apply to oil sands products.
Republicans haven’t ruled out bringing the tax back retroactively, and Democrats are pushing for just that.
“The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund ensures that when there is a spill, American taxpayers are not left holding the bag to clean up Big Oil’s mess,” Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who as a House member chaired hearings on the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, said in a statement. “We should have a robust trust fund — not just trust that oil companies will do nothing wrong — in case a disaster like the BP spill happens again.”
This is one to keep an eye on. Will Republicans do the right thing for once, or will they quietly let the issue die, until the next time a major oil spill makes everyone sit up and notice?