Raskin Leads Democratic Effort to Block Immunity for Fossil Fuel Industry

    Maryland Rep. Jamie B. Raskin is spearheading an effort by congressional Democrats to block any attempts to offer the U.S. fossil fuel industry immunity for damages it has caused to the environment.

    In a letter sent Monday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Raskin and 60 Democratic colleagues note that certain members of Congress have attempted to slip immunity provisions for the fossil fuel industry into legislation to spread COVID-19 stimulus funds across the country.

    “We urge you to categorically oppose any attempt to confer immunity on the fossil fuel industry or to limit its liability for the damages it causes to people or property,” they write. “The struggle to beat the coronavirus should not be corrupted or abused for the purposes of providing legal immunity to the oil, gas and coal industries, major polluters who have destabilized our climate and imperiled our environment, our economy and our future.”

    The Democratic lawmakers go on to say it should be “obvious…that the nation’s desperate efforts to
    respond to one catastrophic global crisis should not be the occasion to immunize polluters and tortfeasors from the legal consequences of helping create another catastrophic global crisis.”

    With studies showing that climate adaptation and restoration from decades of burning fossil fuels will cost the United States trillions of dollars, the lawmakers argue that fossil fuel companies need to be held accountable and made to pay their fair share for the environmental degradation they have caused.

    “We should not interfere with ongoing litigation by granting the culpable parties a license to destroy our eco-system with financial impunity and legal immunity,” the lawmakers’ letter concludes.

    The statement has been endorsed by a long list of environmental groups: the Sierra Club, National Resource Defense Council, 350.org, Earthjustice, Environmental Working Group, Greenpeace, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, American Association for Justice, the Center for Climate Integrity, Food & Water Watch, Food & Water Action, Oxfam America, Union of Concerned Scientists, Oil Change International, Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen, VOICES (Victory over InFRACKstructure, Clean Energy Instead), Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network International, Center for International Environmental Law, Climate Hawks Vote, Center for Biological Diversity, Sustainable Energy & Economy Network, Center for Sustainable Economy, EarthRights International, Rachel Carson Council, Corporate Accountability, and the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.

    “The fossil fuel industry needs to pay for the damage it knowingly caused. The attempt of these companies to exploit this pandemic and make taxpayers clean up their mess is immoral,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.