Senator Wyden has voted against every Keystone XL pipeline bill the Senate has considered. He knows building the Keystone XL pipeline isn’t about lowering gas prices in Oregon – it’s about padding the profits of foreign oil companies. At a time when the price of gasoline is at its lowest point in years, he opposes building a pipeline that could actually raise gas prices in parts of the U.S.
In the midst of the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline last week, Ron stood up for taxpayers in Oregon and across the country when he led an effort to close an unfair tax loophole that gives millions of dollars to Canadian tar sands oil producers.
Currently, all other producers transporting oil within the United States pay an 8 cent-per-barrel tax that goes into an oil spill cleanup fund called the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Tar sands oil producers do not. This inexplicable loophole leaves U.S. taxpayers on the hook if that oil spills.
While the Senate was considering the Keystone XL pipeline, another pipeline burst in Montana, spilling more than 50,400 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River on January 17. As Ron noted on the Senate floor, thousands of residents of nearby Glendive, Montana had their water cut off after officials found oil and elevated levels of cancer-causing benzene in their drinking water.
Ron knows well the carcinogenic dangers of benzene, having fought hard to get benzene out of Oregonians’ gasoline and drinking water and he promised to fight a Keystone XL pipeline that puts other communities’ water at risk.
The cleanup from the Montana oil spill is being aided by money from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which serves as an immediate source of funding for oil spills. But by allowing tar sands oil producers to avoid paying this tax, the current loophole puts Canadian tar sands producers ahead of the health and safety of local communities.
Ron offered an amendment to close that loophole, which secured 50 votes from both parties on Jan. 22. However, it was not enough to clear a 60-vote Senate procedural hurdle, so the loophole remains open.
Ron vowed on the Senate floor to continue fighting until the egregious discrepancy is fixed.
“I won’t let this issue go until the loophole is closed for good and tar sands producers are paying their fair share,” he said.
Ron also offered an amendment demanding the Senate acknowledge that the public should get full value for the natural resources U.S. citizens collectively own. Currently, natural gas on federal lands is being wasted through flaring, venting or leaks from domestic oil production. The Department of the Interior is not doing all it can to ensure the U.S. taxpayer gets what they are owed, which could otherwise be used as valuable U.S.-produced energy.
A recent Government Accountability Office report estimated about $23 million a year is lost in the domestic production of oil and gas on federal lands through leaked or flared natural gas. Unfortunately, Senate Republican leaders did not allow a vote on his amendment.
Ron cosponsored another bipartisan amendment offered by Senators Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Michael Bennet, D- Colo., which would have permanently authorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The amendment fell one vote short of passing by a vote of 59 to 39 on Jan. 29. The LWCF program helps ensure access to outdoor recreation areas by providing funding to protect public lands and matching state grants. Wyden and Burr led 39 of their colleagues in urging Senate leadership to find a permanent funding solution in November.