Taxpayers Footing Oil Safety Bill

It's no secret that when it comes to the mounting cost of security for all high-risk terrorist targets, like nuclear power plants and railroads, there simply isn't enough Homeland Security money to go around.

But, as CBS News Correspondent Mika Brzezinski reports, precious taxpayer dollars are quietly going to pay for security at some of the richest corporations in the world. Major oil companies have received $65 million to buy cameras, fencing, and communications equipment.

"That makes no sense to me at all," says Bill Millar, President of the American Public Transportation Association.

Millar asks why these profitable private companies are receiving scarce taxpayer dollars while publicly funded entities like the transit system, with Americans riding 32 million times a day, left under-funded and under-protected.

"Clearly, public transit is being short changed and security is not as strong as it could be," says Millar.

"We don't have unlimited resources," says Danielle Brian, the executive director of Project On Government Oversight. Brian cites the Bush administration's close ties with the oil industry and points out that these companies could well afford to pay for their own security.

"They're taking absolute advantage of the situation and the government is letting them get away with it," said Brian.

Case in point: Citgo made a $439 million profit but took $19.4 million in government grants. ConocoPhillips earned $4.7 billion in profits but received nearly $10.8 million. ChevronTexaco netted a whopping $7.2 billion profit but several of its facilities still got over $7.3 million in government handouts.

All of these companies refused our request for an interview. Instead we were sent to industry representative John Felmy. He says everyone, not just the oil companies, benefits from increased security.

When told that the money is going to oil companies when it could be going to targets that can't afford to protect themselves, Felmy said, "You'll have to speak to the Department of Homeland Security."

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge points out that the oil companies only get a fraction of Homeland Security funds. But he acknowledged a need for more shared responsibility.

"Do these companies need this money," Brzezinski asked Ridge.

"They need to step up, in my judgment, with their own money,'' said Ridge.

Brzezinksi: "Do you think maybe some of these companies are cashing in on a great opportunity here?"

Ridge: "Well, as long as the funds are available for the private sector they will apply."

And some have applied yet again, because more government funds will be available by the end of the summer
  • Jaime Holguin

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