For Immediate Release
Astroturf Alert: Rallies Against Congressional Oil Spill Measures Represent Industry Views - Not Citizens
Statement of Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program
WASHINGTON - Today marks the start of rallies across the country organized by the
oil and gas industry to block Congress from passing much-needed measures
to address problems that came to light during the BP Gulf of Mexico
The American Petroleum Institute (API), which is organizing the
events in Texas, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and Colorado, claims to
speak not only for industry workers but for "countless consumers" who
are concerned about the proposals.
Don't be fooled. This is phony grassroots. Americans were aghast at
the BP oil disaster and what they learned subsequently: that the
government exercises little oversight over offshore oil drilling, that
there is a ridiculously low cap on oil industry liability in the event
of a major spill, that technology has far outpaced the safety measures
and much more.
In response, lawmakers drafted legislation that would set new safety
standards for blowout preventers and other equipment intended to shut
off wells in an emergency, eliminate the existing $75 million cap for
oil companies' liability for spills, restructure the industry-friendly
agency formerly known as the Minerals Management Service, reform the
royalty system to ensure oil companies pay their fair share to taxpayers
for use of public land, and add protections for whistleblowers who call
attention to safety violations in oil and gas operations, among other
By staging these rallies, API is trying to distort public
perception. In fact, people want the government to ensure that another
BP oil disaster never happens again. Lawmakers would be derelict in
their duty if they didn't respond to the worst environmental disaster in
Last summer, API President Jack Gerard sent a memo to API member
groups that laid out a plan to create astroturf rallies as a tactic to
oppose climate change legislation. The memo asked recipients to give API
"the name of one central coordinator for your company's involvement in
the rallies." And it warned: "Please treat this information as sensitive
... we don't want critics to know our game plan."
Well, a year later, the game plan hasn't changed, but the legislative
focus has. We can't let API - and its fake grassroots and well-funded
media campaign - kill the oil spill bill.
Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.