McConnell, Big Oil Push for Nationwide COVID-19 Liability Waiver

by | Aug 16, 2020

Oil and gas, plastics, and utilities are among the industries lobbying hard for a federal shield from COVID-19-related lawsuits. According to a Friends of the Earth review of quarterly earnings statements, firms actively pressing Congress for the waiver include ExxonMobil and ConocoPhilips; trade groups such as the American Petroleum Institute and the Petroleum Marketers Association of America; and “conservative dark money” groups such as FreedomWorks. The Hill reported on July 31 that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is determined to get a liability waiver into whatever the next pandemic aid bill may be. Back in March, the Senate’s committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs inserted a liability waiver for energy and transportation companies, among others, into the CARES Act, but the language had vanished by March 25, when the Senate passed the legislation. Status: The House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion-plus package of new pandemic aid on May 15, but it’s not clear if or when the Senate will take it up.

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Amy Westervelt is the editor-in-chief of Drilled News, creator and host of the Drilled podcast, and founder of the Critical Frequency podcast network, named AdWeek's Podcast Network of the Year in 2019. An award-winning print and audio journalist, Amy has contributed to The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, as well as KQED, The California Report, Capital Public Radio, and many other outlets. She is the 2015 winner of the Rachel Carson award for "women greening journalism," and a 2016 winner of an Edward R. Murrow award for her series on the impacts of the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada. In 2019, the Drilled podcast won the Online News Association's "Excellence in Audio Storytelling" award.

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Emily J. Gertz is senior editor of Drilled News. A longtime environmental reporter and editor, her work has appeared in HuffPost, Reveal, Arctic Today, The Guardian, Popular Science, Scientific American, Sierra, and more.