Energy panel's new power duo open to bill lifting crude export ban

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Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) say they are ready to propose legislation that would lift a decades-old ban on crude oil exports if President Obama doesn't take action.

Landrieu will soon take the gavel of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Murkowski sits on as the ranking Republican.

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On Wednesday, ahead of Congress's first hearing in nearly 25 years on crude oil exports, The Hill asked Landrieu if legislation lifting the ban was going to be proposed.

"I'm certain there will have to be," Landrieu said, "unless the president can do this by executive order."

"Let's see what the hearing brings forth and then we can do a good strong sensible policy based on the facts," she added.

Following the hearing on Thursday, a top aide to Murkowski on the Energy panel said that she too is on board with proposing legislation if Obama doesn't take action.

Murkowski sent a letter to Obama earlier this month calling on him to lift the ban.

"While I believe you retain the executive authority necessary to lift the ban on crude exports, if you need legislative support from the Congress in order to do so, you will always have a willing partner from Alaska," Murkowski wrote the letter.

The administration has not responded to the letter or requests to lift the ban.

Landrieu and Murkowski have yet to talk about proposing legislation, Murkowski's aide said. Landrieu has been focused on the flood bill, which is set for final passage on Thursday.

The two will likely push the issue further once Landrieu takes the helm of the committee.

Murkowski was originally going to wait for Landrieu to take over the Senate Energy Committee to push the hearing on the crude export ban until the current chairman, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), expressed interest in the issue.

Wyden is set to become chairman of the Senate Finance Committee once Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is confirmed as ambassador to China.

During Thursday's hearing the debate came down to whether or not lifting the ban would increase prices for consumers — a possibility Wyden is concerned about — and if refiners can handle the amounts of crude coming out of key regions in the U.S. before exporting the refined products abroad.