Analysis

BailoutWatch Seeks Records On Fossil Fuel Bailouts

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said a key Federal Reserve bailout program was expanded to include more fossil fuel companies.

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said a key Federal Reserve bailout program was expanded to include more fossil fuel companies.

Following unprecedented interference by the Trump Administration to help fossil fuel companies access taxpayer bailouts, BailoutWatch has formally requested records about those events from the Treasury, the Energy Department, and the Federal Reserve.

In letters sent Sunday and Monday, BailoutWatch asked for records about “the eligibility of companies in the energy industry for the Federal Reserve’s emergency-lending programs supported by the CARES Act.” The request names specific records that BailoutWatch believes exist, including calendars of meetings between agency leaders and oil and gas executives.

The requests were filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a federal law that ensures transparency by requiring government agencies to disclose any records requested by the public or news media, unless the records fall into a handful of excluded categories like trade secrets and information that could threaten national security.

BailoutWatch filed the requests after Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette appeared to tell Bloomberg TV that changes to the Fed’s Main Street Lending Program were made to help more mid-sized fossil fuel companies qualify.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “worked very closely with the Federal Reserve. We adjusted the program — the Main Street Lending Program — and made that program available to what we refer to as mid-cap size companies,” Brouilette said on May 12.

Fossil fuel companies fought restrictions that would have barred many of them from the program. On April 30, the Fed announced changes to the program that mirrored earlier requests by the industry and its supporters.

BailoutWatch requested expedited handling of its requests. To qualify for this fast track, requestors must be “primarily engaged in disseminating information,"and demonstrate "urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal Government activity.”

If the agencies deny this request, Treasury and the Energy Department still are required by law to respond to BailoutWatch’s requests by August 10. The Fed’s deadline to respond to BailoutWatch’s request is August 9. 

The request to the Federal Reserve joins an earlier request by Food and Water Watch, which has sued the Fed seeking release of some of the records.