Menendez Asks Government Watchdog To Investigate Potential Billions In Unpaid Oil & Gas Company Fines

Menendez Asks Government Watchdog To Investigate Potential Billions In Unpaid Oil & Gas Company Fines

Requests GAO study to account for fines for safety violations, market manipulation, others

Washington - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate exactly how many dollars in fines potentially billions are owed to the federal treasury by the oil and gas industry, as well as specific guidance on how these fines are assessed and collected. In a letter to David Walker, comptroller general of the United States, Menendez requested a full listing of all civil and criminal fines and penalties assessed against any oil or gas company, in addition to a more in-depth understanding of how fines are collected from such corporations.

"At the same time the Bush administration and the Republican Congress are fighting our efforts to repeal the big oil companies egregious tax breaks and give Americans a federal gas tax holiday, theyre also letting these same companies avoid fines that could run into the billions," Menendez said. "The American people should not have to subsidize record oil profits at the pump and through the federal treasury as well."

If President Bush refuses to send his fellow oilmen a past due notice, then the Congress must act.

Several news reports have documented the exorbitant profits oil and gas companies have recently made while they squeeze the American consumer with high energy prices and refuse to pay fines and penalties, which could equal billions of dollars. Just in the past few months, BP has been hit with large fines for refinery safety violations and Shell Oil has been fined for manipulating crude oil markets. An example recently highlighted by the Associated Press involved the Olympia Pipeline company, which was only required to pay $250,000 of a $3.05 million fine a fine that was assessed because of safety violations that resulted in the deaths of three young men.

There is no shortage of information regarding fines assessed on oil and gas companies, but it is very difficult to determine how much is actually collected, Menendez wrote. Particularly when oil and gas companies are making record profits, and consumers are paying record gas prices, it is important to ensure that companies that break the law are being held accountable financially, not merely through agency press releases.

# # #