Big Oil Doesn't Want to Pay for Big Oil Spills

May 11, 2010, 09:00 ET from Marin Institute from ,California Tax Reform Association

Exxon Mobil Backed Measure Would Protect Oil Companies From Paying For Environmental Clean-Up

SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As a big oil slick approaches the Gulf Coast, a slick Big Oil campaign is approaching California's ballot box. Oil companies Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Shell and Exxon Mobil have joined with the California Chamber of Commerce to push a proposed ballot measure that would protect them from fees used to lessen their harmful effects on the environment.

Chevron alone has contributed $250,000 to the self-named Stop Hidden Taxes Campaign, which has already spent close to a million dollars on gathering signatures to qualify for November's ballot. Last week, the campaign began submitting petitions to county election offices. The proposal would reclassify fees charged to polluters as taxes, subject to approval by a super majority, 2/3, vote of the Legislature; or by a costly local election also requiring a super majority.

"The deceptively named Stop Hidden Taxes campaign is hiding their true motives, and they are not even doing a good job of that." Said Lenny Goldberg of the California Tax Reform Association. "Their own website cites an 'Oil severance fee to mitigate oil spill clean-up', as an example of a 'hidden tax.'"

The proposal would also require a 2/3 vote for any measure that cracks down on tax shelters and tax cheaters.  "Not only is this polluter protection, it is also tax shelter protection for wealthy taxpayers and corporations," added Goldberg.

Without fees assessed to oil companies by state or local governments, the cost of cleaning-up environmental disasters, like the current Gulf Spill, would have to be paid for by taxpayers. California voters defeated an identical initiative, dubbed the "Polluter Protection Act", in 2000. The timing of this year's proposal was questioned given that Chevron's first-quarter profits rose 148% to top $4.55 billion.

"For Chevron, Exxon Mobile and their Big Oil cronies to ask Californians to bail them out during our nation's worst environmental disaster is particularly appalling," said Doug Linney who spearheaded the coalition that defeated the Polluter Protection Act of 2000. "Apparently the massive wind-fall profits oil companies have recently reaped are not enough. Voters were not fooled last time and Big Oil's deceptive campaign tactics will face a similar fate."

The initiative's impact will resonate far beyond the environmental community. "Not only would environmental protections be weakened but fees used for public safety, public health, and education would also be jeopardized," notes Bruce Lee Livingston, Executive Director of alcohol industry watchdog Marin Institute. "This is a very broad and very dangerous proposal; even fees used to prevent underage drinking have been labeled as a hidden tax."

Other "hidden taxes" identified by the Big Oil/Chamber of Commerce sponsored campaign are:

  • Fees related to covering immunizations for children
  • Pharmaceutical cost fees to cover the poor and/or elderly
  • Spoiled/infected food mitigation fee
  • Fees to repair road and bridge damage caused by heavy trucks

Contact: Doug Linney, Campaign Spokesman

Phone:  (510) 444-4710 ext. 309


Contact: Lenny Goldberg, California Tax Reform Assoc.

Phone:  (916) 446-4300


Contact: Michael Scippa,

Marin Institute

Phone: (415) 548-0492


SOURCE Marin Institute; California Tax Reform Association