Here’s a story that will hopefully make some waves. Apparently there is a five cent tax on each barrel of oil that is supposed to go towards preparing for big oil disasters. How bad could Congress have screwed this one up?
Specifically, in 1990, shortly after Exxon’s 750,000-barrel Alaska catastrophe, Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act to funnel up to $28 million in research money annually to pre-empt and respond to possible disasters, as the oil industry “pushed the frontier of deepwater drilling.” This money wouldn’t come from the general coffers, but rather a trust fund, covered by a 5-cent per-barrel tax collected from the oil industry.
But over the ensuing 20 years, the report states, the piggy bank got raided: Congress never appropriated even half the $28 million, shifting the money elsewhere, leaving the the Coast Guard, Minerals Management Services, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency—the four agencies charged by the law to combat the spill threat—with technology that hadn’t been updated much in nearly two decades.
Typical… congress bends to public outcry to mitigate the repeat of a disaster, and when we’re not looking… they steal the money and spend it on something else. If this isn’t a metaphor for so many things wrong with our politics today, I’m not sure what is.