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$17.8 billion in polluter tax breaks revealed

December 17, 1998
Web posted at: 1:30 PM EST

Oil and gas industry tax breaks will amount to about $11 billion over the next five years   

By Environmental News Network staff

(ENN) -- Federal tax breaks for polluting industries, such as oil and gas, mining, timber and agribusiness corporations, are estimated to grow to $17.8 billion over the next five years, according to a report released Monday by the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

The environmental group Friends of the Earth says the report, Estimates of Federal Tax Expenditures for Fiscal Years 1999-2003, is evidence of how the government gives billions of dollars away in annual tax breaks to businesses that harm the environment.

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, said Friends of the Earth.

"Santa came early this year for polluting industries," said Gawain Kripke, director of economic campaigns at Friends of the Earth. "Congress should play Scrooge and cut these dirty tax breaks."

The tax breaks include:

  • $11 billion for tax breaks and loopholes that subsidize exploration and production activities for the oil and gas industry
  • $1.9 billion for tax breaks to the mining industry -- some of which comes from mining minerals on public lands
  • $900 million in special provisions for timber companies, which the environmental group says drives 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
"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-Calif., a member of the Ways and Means Committee. "This $17.8 billion in corporate welfare is unconscionable."

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

"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 director of tax policy. "It is time to put an end to these unnecessary and harmful subsidies."

Copyright 1998, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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