Strange bedfellows file FOIA request to IRS on “Clean Coal” subsidy

For immediate release: August 9, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Green Scissors — a coalition of free-market, taxpayer and environmental groups — announced today it has filed a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act seeking Internal Revenue Service records on the 45Q tax credit for carbon capture and sequestration.

Created by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, perhaps better known as the “Wall Street bailout,” 45Q allows a $20 tax credit for each ton of CO2 captured and stored underground and a $10 credit for each ton of CO2 captured and used as part of enhanced oil-recovery projects. Congress did not intend the measure to be permanent, setting it to expire after credits for 75 million tons of CO2 had been disbursed.

The request filed today is for information that has never been made public: the total number of credits disbursed for oil extraction, rather than underground storage.

It’s important for the public to know how the policy benefits fossil-fuel industries, since a broad coalition including oil and coal companies is asking Congress to extend and expand the 45Q tax credit. Legislation introduced by Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, would lift the cap of 75 million tons and steadily increase the per-ton value of the credit for new facilities to $30 for both oil extraction and underground storage.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., sought, without success, to include similar language in the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration in April. Since then, Sen. Heitkamp and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., have introduced legislation to increase the credit for new facilities to $35 and $50 for oil extraction and underground storage, respectively.

“While targeted tax incentives in general are poor ways to shape markets, they’re especially galling when we don’t know what we’re buying,” said Catrina Rorke, director of energy policy at the R Street Institute. “We’re asking for this information to demonstrate once and for all that this provision is more about subsidizing businesses, not reducing climate emissions.”

“Taxpayers have funneled millions of dollars into clean coal and have nothing to show for it,” said Autumn Hanna, senior program director at Taxpayers for Common Sense. “With attempts to expand or extend wasteful credit looming, it’s time information about the CCS tax credit see the light of day.”

“This is a disaster waiting to hitch a ride on a must-pass bill,” said Lukas Ross, climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Before Congress sleep walks into giving Big Oil a giant new subsidy, we deserve some basic information about who is benefiting and how from the current law.”

The Green Scissors coalition has weighed in repeatedly against taxpayers subsidies for carbon capture and sequestration, from stimulus funds for doomed facilities like FutureGen 2.0 and Hydrogen Energy California to additional tax subsidies like 45Q.


Expert contacts:
Lukas Ross, (202) 222-0724,
Catrina Rorke, (202) 525-5717,
Autumn Hanna, (202) 546-8500,

Communications contact: Kate Colwell, (202) 222-0744,