Chesapeake Energy, Main Beneficiary of BLM’s Lease Suspensions, Has Been Fined Nearly $14 Million In Environmental Penalties and $25 Million For Racketeering

WASHINGTON, D.C. One of the largest beneficiaries of a new pro-industry Interior Department policy is an energy company with a long list of environmental violations and has been penalized for racketeering, according to a new report from Politico.

The new policy allows oil and gas companies to pause their leases without paying rent to the government, which amounts to a massive give away to industry. Of the 69 leases that benefit from the policy in Wyoming, Chesapeake Exploration was the majority owner of 67 of the leases.

Chesapeake Energy — the parent company of Chesapeake Exploration — has been assessed $13.8 million in environmental violations since 2000. Some of the biggest fines were for Clean Water Act violations after Chesapeake was caught illegally dumping waste, hurting streams and wetlands. Chesapeake was also required to pay a $25 million penalty in Michigan after it conspired with another oil company to avoid bidding wars in 2015.

“Corporate polluters are cashing on the coronavirus pandemic while the rest of the country is just struggling to survive thanks to another corrupt decision by the Trump administration,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US. “This administration is working harder for corporate special interests than he is for the millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet.”

In April, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued guidance to public lands oil and gas drillers on how to apply for reduced royalty rates or lease suspensions during the COVID-19 pandemic, thereby allowing companies that drill on public lands to pause their leases rent-free. 

Accountable.US has been tracking the administration’s response to COVID-19. TrumpBailouts.org documents the billion-dollar corporations and other large companies that have received taxpayer assistance under the CARES Act, and what advantages and assets they had going into the COVID-19 crisis that most small businesses could never access.

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