The report, "The RPSEA Rip-Off: How the Natural Gas Industry Extracted a Billion-Dollar Boondoggle from Congress," describes how companies with profits that totaled more than $100 billion in 2005 set up a taxpayer-funded subsidy establishing a 10-year, $1.5 billion research program to find ways to extract oil and gas from "ultra-deepwater" depths and hard-to-access onshore areas. American taxpayers will begin doling out about $400 million -- and possibly more than a billion dollars -- over 10 years to a research consortium that includes wealthy oil and gas companies due to a provision slipped quietly into the enormous 2005 energy bill.
The Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) was set up by the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), a group that was successor to another gas industry organization that had lost a dedicated source of funding from pipeline operators worth more than $200 million annually. GTI subsequently led the effort to help replace those lost funds with taxpayer dollars. The subsidy it secured is a relic of the tenure of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who ensured that much of the program's money would be guaranteed without further congressional action. RPSEA and GTI established offices in DeLay's former district of Sugar Land, Texas.
The report documents the law's journey to passage and illustrates what is wrong with the lawmaking process and how some of the world's richest corporations are able to foist industry research costs onto taxpayers. The measure was slipped into a conference report in the dead of night, after conferees had signed off on what they thought was a final bill. The plan incorporated the use of a non-profit consortium to make the legislation look less like a special favor for a known entity. The legislative leaders who inserted the measure were among the top recipients of campaign contributions from the members of the front group.