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PESA Updates Members on Congressional Initiatives

On July 31, PESA’s Government Affairs Committee, led by Todd Ennenga, Halliburton, held a townhall discussion focused on potential legislative initiatives in response to COVID-19.

Tim Tarpley, Vice President Government Affairs, opened with an overview of the $1 trillion Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and School Act (HEALS) introduced in the Senate by Republicans on July 23. As part of HEALS, Republicans drafted new unemployment payments for the 20 million Americans currently without jobs. Priority has been placed on ending the additional weekly $600 payment Republicans believe disincentivizes Americans from returning to work.

The current funds expired on July 31. Under the HEALS Act, individuals would receive $200 additional per week until states are able to implement a new system that would provide people with 70% of their prior earnings, capped at $60,000. The proposal also calls for a second direct stimulus payment of $1,200 to Americans making under $75,000.

HEALS also proposes a five-year liability shield retroactive to 2019 and extending until 2024. The measure is nearly identical to a proposal from Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has previously insisted that liability language be included in any bill, which House Democrats have opposed. Within the liability shield, cases will be moved to federal courts, and plaintiffs would have to prove gross negligence and a violation of state and local public health guidelines. PESA supports a limited liability shield to protect companies from frivolous lawsuits as long as they follow OSHA and CDC guidelines.

Tarpley concluded the overview of the HEALS Act with discussion of proposals to extend and expand the Paycheck Protection Program by adding $190 billion to support second loans for businesses. To be eligible, business must certify they employ at least 300 people and that their revenue has fallen by 50%. Current funding for the PPP expires on August 8.

Moving on to state and local updates, Tarpley noted that states like Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado and New Mexico have been forced to reinstate quarantines due to increases in COVID-19 cases. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said he would consider such a move if cases continue to rise.

Tarpley also highlighted the recent Supreme Court ruling that could have a possible effect on oil and gas drilling in eastern Oklahoma.

Lastly, the townhall discussed the newly released 2020 Democratic National Convention platform and its implications for the OFS sector. These include amendments to: commit the U.S. to emissions targets keeping global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius beyond preindustrial levels, rather than 2.0 degrees C; require companies to publicly disclose climate risks — both physical and financial — and greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and supply chains; ban new oil and gas permits on federal land and water; raise royalty rates for existing federal fossil fuel leases to account for climate change; and eliminate so-called “fossil fuel tax breaks and subsidies.”

In the coming weeks, the Government Affairs Committee will host Reps. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX 29), Kendra Horn (D-OK 5) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM 2). Register online. If you would like to join the Government Affairs Committee, please reach out to ttarpley@pesa.org.

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