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Fossil Fuel Industry Evokes Fury for Seeking Taxpayer Funds for Protection Against Climate Crisis It Created

"Big Oil is asking tax payers to pay for protecting their refineries from sea level rise that they caused by keeping us addicted to oil? Yeah…no."

Jon Queally

An oil refinery is seen before the arrival of Hurricane Harvey on August 25, 2017 in Corpus Christi, Texas. As Hurricane Harvey comes ashore many of the countries oil refineries are in its path and have had to shut down. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Climate justice advocates and green groups are calling foul on the fossil fuel industry and their GOP backers in Congress over an effort to secure tens of millions of public taxpayer dollars to fund a giant offshore "spine" of seawalls and other barriers to protect Gulf Coast refineries from the threat of sea-level rise and increasingly powerful storms that scientists have explained are the direct result of the very global warming and climate impacts these interests continue to deny even exist.

Like other oceanfront mitigation projects, the Associated Press reported late Wednesday night,

this one would protect homes, delicate ecosystems and vital infrastructure, but it also has another priority — to shield some of the crown jewels of the petroleum industry, which is blamed for contributing to global warming and now wants the federal government to build safeguards against the consequences of it.

The plan is focused on a stretch of coastline that runs from the Louisiana border to industrial enclaves south of Houston that are home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of petrochemical facilities, including most of Texas’ 30 refineries, which represent 30 percent of the nation’s refining capacity. 

Texas is seeking at least $12 billion for the full coastal spine, with nearly all of it coming from public funds. Last month, the government fast-tracked an initial $3.9 billion for three separate, smaller storm barrier projects that would specifically protect oil facilities.

"Let me get this straight," declared Jamie Henn, communication director for 350 Action: "Big Oil is asking tax payers to pay for protecting their refineries from sea level rise that they caused by keeping us addicted to oil? Yeah…no."

Thanu Yakupitiyage, 350.org's U.S. communications manager, added:  "With wildfires, flooding, and storms all being made worse by climate change, it's sickening that Big Oil is attempting to punt the costs of their own destruction onto the rest of us. We need investment in a just transition to 100% renewable energy that protects our communities, not outdated and dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure."

Bryan Parras, the Sierra Club's Gulf Coast organizer, called out Republicans lawmakers, specifically Republican Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, who have backed the industry's push for the funding. 

"The irony of a main driver of the climate crisis asking the government for protection from it seems to be lost on Senators Cornyn and Cruz, both of whom support spending billions of taxpayer dollars to fund this project," Parras said in a statement. "Neither senator has recognized the reality of climate change, or taken any action to stop it or protect communities. Apparently, as long as their true constituents—the oil companies—are protected, that’s good enough for them."

As the Sierra Club noted, the story emerges as organizers in Texas are putting on a People’s Tribunal on Harvey Recovery, an effort designed to "uplift stories and testimonials from the most vulnerable populations impacted by the storm and the inevitable storms to come." 

The project is also exactly the kind of thing that climate activists will be standing against next month when organized protests and actions—under the umbrella of the Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice campaign—take place around the U.S. and the world on September 8.

"Corporate polluters—not everyday people," said 350's Yakupitiyage, must be the ones to "pay the costs of worsening climate impacts."


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