Majority Leader Tom DeLay may have faded from the front pages, but he’s still up to his dirty tricks. Yesterday, Rep. Henry Waxman revealed that DeLay slipped “a $1.5 billion giveaway to the oil industry, Halliburton, and Sugar Land, Texas” into the energy bill. But it gets worse. The provision was "mysteriously inserted" into the text of the energy bill "after the conference was closed, so members of the conference committee had no opportunity to consider or reject this measure." DeLay has launched an assault on the democratic process. Write your representatives and demand this provision be removed from the energy bill.
The $1.5 billion is designated for "oil and natural gas drilling research." Ordinarily, any company could apply for these funds directly from the government. But DeLay does things a little differently. In this case, the bulk of the money must be handed over to "a corporation that is constructed as a consortium." As it so happens, "the leading contender for this contract appears to be the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) consortium, housed in the Texas Energy Center in Sugar Land, Texas," Tom DeLay’s home district. RPSEA "has been advocating such a research program and is in a better position than any other group." (DeLay testified in support of the program before a House subcommittee last year.) If RPSEA wins the contract they can keep "up to 10% of the funds – in this case, over $100 million – in administrative expenses."
The $1.5 billion giveaway was added to the bill after "Democratic negotiators went home Tuesday at 4 a.m. believing a deal had been finalized and the provision wasn’t in the bill." The program was not included in the draft version of the bill and a DeLay spokesman said "he could not explain how the item was added to the final version of legislation prepared by the Senate and House negotiators." A spokesman for Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, noted that Sen. Jeff Bingaman, (D-NM), and Rep. John Dingell, (D-MI) were also informed. Bingaman’s spokesman, Bill Wicker, said "We don’t see this as a sweetheart deal for anyone."
The broader question is: why do taxpayers need to provide another huge subsidy oil and gas companies? As Waxman notes "The oil and gas industry is reporting record income and profits. According to one analyst, the net income of the top oil companies will total $230 billion in 2005." Halliburton, which is a member of the consortium, would be eligible to "receive awards from the over $1 billion fund administered by the consortium."