Senate Dems want answers on oil export approvals

Two Democratic senators have asked the Commerce Department for its legal rationale for allowing exports of a certain kind of light oil, saying the approvals were likely illegal.

Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Lawmakers target Chinese tech giants | Dems move to save top cyber post | Trump gets a new CIA chief | Ryan delays election security briefing | Twitter CEO meets lawmakers Twitter CEO meets with lawmakers to talk net neutrality, privacy Senate votes to save net neutrality rules MORE (D-Mass.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThe Hill's Morning Report: Can Trump close the deal with North Korea? Senate must save itself by confirming Mike Pompeo Poll: Menendez has 17-point lead over GOP challenger MORE (D-N.J.) said in their Wednesday letter that the 1975 law banning crude oil exports “unquestionably restrict the export of condensate.” It was reported last week that Commerce allowed two United States companies to export condensate, an ultralight form of crude oil that results from minimal processing.

“Exports of condensate or other light crude oils appear to be prohibited unless and until the regulation is revised following notice and public comment,” the senators wrote.

Markey and Menendez asked for copies of Commerce’s rulings, as well as the answers to eight questions about the department’s regulations regarding oil exports.

“Does the Commerce Department believe that these private rulings constitute any change to the existing prohibitions on crude oil exports?” one of the questions read.

Responding to questions about the export approvals, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said last week, “the fact is there has been no change to our policy on crude oil exports,” since condensate is not crude.

Many lawmakers have recently called for the crude export ban to be lifted, including Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the leaders of the Energy Committee.