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DECEMBER 15, 1998   3:27 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Friends of the Earth
Gawain Kripke, 202/783-7400 x212 
Lynn Erskine,  202/783-7400 x255 
 
Tax Breaks for Polluters Growing More Expensive: New Congressional Report Reveals $17.8 billion in Corporate Welfare
 
WASHINGTON - December 15 - New information released by the non-partisan Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation shows that tax breaks for polluting industries are estimated to grow to $17.8 billion over the next five years. 

The report, Estimates of Federal Tax Expenditures for Fiscal Years 1999-2003, presents new information about the billions in annual tax breaks that reward corporations for polluting air and water, scaring landscapes, and clear cutting forests. Last year the estimate of polluting tax breaks was $15.3 billion over five years. 

The primary industrial beneficiaries of these environmentally-harmful tax giveaways are oil and gas, mining, timber and agribusiness corporations. Oil and gas tax breaks alone account for close to $11 billion. These subsidies not only cost ordinary U.S. taxpayers more in taxes, but they stunt the growth of emerging, environmentally friendly energy technologies, which are crucial to sustainable development. 

"Santa came early this year for polluting industries," said Gawain Kripke, Director of Economic Campaigns at Friends of the Earth, a national environmental organization working to cut corporate welfare. "Congress should play Scrooge and cut these dirty tax breaks." 

The tax breaks for polluters include: 

  • $11 billion for tax breaks and loopholes that subsidize exploration and production activities for the polluting oil and gas industry. 
  • $1.9 billion for special tax breaks to the mining industry - some of which comes from mining minerals on public lands. 
  • $900 million is special provisions for timber companies, driving down the costs of virgin wood products at the expense of recycled goods. 
  • $3.9 billion for loopholes intended to benefit small farmers but that primarily benefit large agribusiness. 

"Tax loopholes continue to reward corporations that pollute the air and water, drill for oil and gas, and cut down forests," said Brian Dunkiel, Friends of the Earth's Director of Tax Policy. "It is time to put an end to these unnecessary and harmful subsidies." 

Friends of the Earth has tracked corporate welfare for polluters in the tax code since 1995. FOE recently updated Dirty Little Secrets, a report targeting the 15 worst tax breaks for the environment.

 

1997 Five-year estimate (billions of $)

1998  Five-year estimate (billions of $)  

Mining

   
Percentage Depletion Allowance $ 1.5 $ 1.5
Expensing Exploration Develop. $ 0.1 $ 0.2
Reclamation Deduction $ 0.2 $ 0.2
Oil and Gas    
Percentage Depletion Allowance $ 2.4 $ 2.4
Enhanced Oil Recovery $ 0.3 $ 0.3
Intangible Drilling Costs $ 1.0 $ 2.2
Nonconventional Fuel Prod. Credit  $ 6.7 $ 6.2
Timber     
Special Tax Treatment of Timber   $ 1.1 $ 0.9
Agribusiness    
Cash Accounting $ 1.2 $ 3.0
Dairy Livestock Expensing  $ 0.8 $ 0.9
 Totals  $ 15.3 $ 17.8

For more information on these tax provisions, see Friends of the Earth's Dirty Little Secrets report. You can view this report on the world wide web at www.foe.org/DLS.  
 

Quotes on the release of 1998 tax expenditure estimates

"This is a golden opportunity to clean up the tax code and the environment at the same time. The President's budget should eliminate these polluter tax breaks and fund a tax cut for working families," said Representative John Lewis (D-GA), a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. 

"We cannot allow the continued rape of the land by polluters who would deplete our forests, scar our public lands, pollute our air and water and then have the tax code subsidize their destruction," said Representative Pete Stark (D-CA), a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. "This $17.8 billion in corporate welfare is unconscionable." 

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