Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are less than 48 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign and our independent journalism needs your help today.
If you value our work, please support Common Dreams. This is our hour of need.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

"The Federal Reserve was tasked with creating a massive program to protect workers' livelihoods during an intense economic and public health crisis. We should, at the very least, expect transparency about how the program is structured," said Food & Water Action attorney Adam Carlesco. (Photo: Tony Webster/Flickr/cc)

'The Public Has a Right to Know': Fed Refuses to Release Documents on Fossil Fuel Industry's Covid-19 Bailouts

"As the climate crisis demands an abrupt shift away from fossil fuels, the federal government should not be creating programs to bail out these polluters."

Jake Johnson

The Federal Reserve has missed a deadline to release documents requested by environmental group Food & Water Action in May to reveal the extent to which the central bank has used one of its major Covid-19 lending programs to rescue the faltering oil and gas industry.

"The public has a right to know if the Fed created an oil and gas bailout at the behest of an industry that has wreaked havoc on our air, water, climate, and potentially the global financial system," Food & Water Action attorney Adam Carlesco said in a statement. "As the climate crisis demands an abrupt shift away from fossil fuels, the federal government should not be creating programs to bail out these polluters."

"There is evidence that the Main Street Lending program was altered to assist oil and gas companies that were already becoming insolvent before the pandemic."
—Adam Carlesco, Food & Water Action

The deadline for the Fed to release the documents requested through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was June 17. On Wednesday, Food & Water Action filed a complaint (pdf) demanding that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia compel the Fed to "disclose records wrongfully withheld in failing to respond within the statutory deadline."

Food & Water Action's May 4 FOIA request asked the central bank to turn over all "records and communications related to accessibility of lending for oil and gas industry businesses" in the Main Street Lending Program, which was designed to provide credit for mid-size companies.

"The Federal Reserve was tasked with creating a massive program to protect workers' livelihoods during an intense economic and public health crisis," said Carlesco. "We should, at the very least, expect transparency about how the program is structured, and whether or not corporate interests have improperly influenced the terms of this relief program."

"There is evidence that the Main Street Lending program was altered to assist oil and gas companies that were already becoming insolvent before the pandemic, and that the changes were precisely what these powerful industries were demanding," Carlesco added.

On April 30, following a lobbying campaign by the oil and gas industry, the Fed announced an expansion of the Main Street Lending Program to include businesses with as many as 15,000 employees or up to $5 billion in annual revenue.

Bharat Ramamurti, a member of the Congressional Oversight Commission formed to monitor bailout money, tweeted at the time that the changes to the lending program "mirror the top requests of the oil and gas industry."

In a May 12 interview on Bloomberg TV, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette openly admitted that the Trump administration "worked very closely with the Federal Reserve" to open the Main Street Lending Program to oil and gas companies.

Brouillette, a former corporate lobbyist, said President Donald Trump personally directed the Energy Department and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to "evaluate the programs that were passed by the Congress and ensure that there is access for these energy industries to those programs."

The Guardian reported Tuesday that more than 5,600 fossil fuel companies in the fossil fuel industry have received at least $3 billion in federal loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was established by Congress in late March to provide relief to small businesses.

"Federal aid should be going to help small businesses and frontline workers struggling as the result of the pandemic, not the corporate polluters whose struggles are a result of longstanding failing business practices," Melinda Pierce, legislative director at Sierra Club, told The Guardian.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Naomi Klein: The US Is in the Midst of a 'Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup'

"The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over," warned the author of "The Shock Doctrine."

Jake Johnson ·


Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·


Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·


Grave Warnings as Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case That Threatens 'Future of Voting Rights'

"Buckle up," implores one prominent legal scholar. "An extreme decision here could fundamentally alter the balance of power in setting election rules in the states and provide a path for great threats to elections."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo