DENVER– At a press conference Thursday, Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Andrew Romanoff called out his opponent Sen. Michael Bennet as well as Democratic Sen. Mark Udall for voting down an amendment that would have closed tax loopholes through which the oil industry evades paying $35 billion to the government each year. Colorado’s Senators said they supported the proposal in theory but that the amendment was written poorly and would have unnecessarily penalized small oil companies and cost Colorado jobs.
“Plenty of candidates promise to stand up to special interests,” Romanoff said at the conference. “….Mr. Bennet’s stance, however, contained a loophole of its own. Twenty-four [hours] earlier, he voted to preserve more than $35 billion in tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, instead of using that money to reduce the deficit and advance energy efficiency and conservation.”
“Michael Bennet voted against that amendment to shut those tax loopholes,” said Carmi McLean, former Colorado director of Clean Water Action, who was scheduled by the campaign to speak. “And it may be expected because he takes money, big money, from oil and gas.”
Adam Bozzi, spokesperson for the Bennet Senate Office, told the Colorado Independent that Bennet supported the effort to make the oil industry start paying its share but that he couldn’t support this particular bill for environmental and economic reasons.
“Michael supports holding big oil accountable, including wiping out tax giveaways to the industry, but this amendment missed the target,” he wrote in an email. “These tax breaks were not specifically geared toward big oil and they did not recognize the important role of small independent producers of natural gas in the transition to the clean-energy economy.
“As a supporter of Colorado’s natural gas industry, which is primarily made up of small, independent companies, Michael could not support a measure that would have needlessly burned the industry and potentially cost Colorado good-paying jobs.”
Bennet voted earlier this month to remove the cap on liability for damages to businesses and the environment caused by oil companies.
Romanoff said he was disappointed in all of the members of the Senate who voted against the amendment.
“I think every single member of Senate who refuses to stand up and take action deserves to answer some tough questions, which we are laying out here,” Romanoff said. “The truth is, it is not just about our wellbeing or well water that is at stake here, it is our children’s future.”
Udall echoed sentiments expressed by Bennet.
“Sander’s amendment, however well intentioned, disadvantaged the small and independent producers of oil and gas,” Udall said. “I have taken the time to understand their cost models and to me it was the wrong way to raise additional revenue for the federal treasury. Our oil and gas industry is important in Colorado… We are not going to set aside our reliance on oil and gas for many decades to come.
“You can’t run our society by hamstringing the small oil and gas producers. My analysis was that if you look at the intangible drilling costs, the tax benefit would in fact [hamstring] them.”
Udall said the bill he introduced last week will work to address spill prevention and will prepare for industrial accidents.
“What we can do is pass a bill that does a better job to research and prepare to respond to spills when they occur. That technology is outdated.”
Romanoff said it was not just the Sanders amendment he was speaking about but a broad swath of regulations, including the safe drinking water act, clean air act, and others, that oil and gas companies have been exempted from having to work under. He said he would remove exemptions under which gas companies evaded disclosing the chemical compounds used in hydraulic fracturing, where chemicals and water are shot into the earth to fee up gas but that many suspect contaminate water sources.
“We don’t get restrictions [on the industry] in part because, while there is a slick of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, there is an even bigger slick of money spreading through Congress and washing away our hopes for reform.”