BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Government data show the Trump administration has awarded energy companies hundreds of breaks on payments for oil and gas extraction from U.S. lands and the Gulf of Mexico during the coronavirus pandemic.

The breaks on payments are intended to help companies with workforce problems or other issues after the pandemic caused fuel demand to temporarily plummet worldwide.

Critics argue the breaks on government fees are unnecessary corporate handouts that in some cases are benefiting companies with histories of environmental violations.

Prices for oil have sharply rebounded to in recent weeks to $39 a barrel for West Texas crude on Wednesday, after dropping below $13 in late April.

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