Dem senator says deal can be struck to lift ban on oil exports

Dem senator says deal can be struck to lift ban on oil exports
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Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) on Tuesday said she thinks lawmakers will be able to hatch a deal this year that lifts the ban on crude oil exports.

Heitkamp said she’s considering ways to attach other energy provisions, including renewable energy tax credits, to her crude oil exports bill to win support from Democrats who are on the fence.

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“I think the Senate is the place where there’s always opportunity for compromise,” Heitkamp said at a National Journal event.

Heitkamp and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have led the charge for lifting the 1970s-era ban on oil exports, moving a bill through the Senate Energy Committee in August. House lawmakers have their own version of the bill, something the Energy and Commerce Committee will consider at a Thursday hearing. 

The effort has attracted broad support among Republicans, and some Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), have said they might be willing to work toward a compromise to get the legislation through. Some House Democrats have said the same.  

That has led advocates on a vote-counting mission, and Heitkamp said Tuesday that she thinks the bill could attract Democratic support if it becomes a vehicle for a broad expansion of expiring tax credits for wind and solar energy, something many in the party have long sought. 

“This is an opportunity to make an argument about production tax credits and investment tax credits in the context of giving certainty, across the board, to the energy industry and truly supporting an all-of-the-above policy,” Heitkamp said.

“I think there still is an opportunity to build a good coalition in the middle.” 

But members on both sides of the issue threw cold water on such a plan Tuesday. 

Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyThis week: Pelosi's test Dem senators drop objection to FCC commissioner Overnight Tech: FCC chief lashes out at GOP | Obama takes on fake news | Bill would delay new hacking powers MORE (D-Mass.) said he could consider lifting the ban only if it’s tied to a permanent extension of the wind and solar tax credits or a national renewable electricity standard, proposals that have next to no chance in Congress.

“It’s a wonderful, I guess, theoretical discussion we might have, but in the real world, that’s not happening,” he said at the National Journal event. 

“I just don’t think that offer is coming. That offer is not going to be put on the table. It just isn’t going to happen.”

Sen. John HoevenJohn HoevenFeds deny permit for Dakota Access pipeline Dem senator to meet with Trump Overnight Energy: Dakota pipeline standoff heats up MORE (R-N.D.) warned that adding renewable energy provisions to an oil bill could turn off Republicans who support lifting the ban. 

“Remember, the process in Congress is not always a direct addition process,” he said. “Keep in mind, you start adding things and you could drop off more votes than you add.”

Heitkamp acknowledged that crafting a compromise bill is a balancing act, and she said attaching too many external proposals to the measure could sink it. 

“Who do you lose when you add those things to it, and how do you build kind of a centrist kind of policy?” she said. “That’s going to be the challenge that we have moving forward.”

But as it stands now, Heitkamp said she’s optimistic about the prospect for compromise. She predicted Congress will find a way to pass the measure this year with enough bipartisan support to win a signature from President Obama. 

“I think every time we have those conversations [with the White House], I feel like we’re building a little more understanding,” she said. “The balance is going to be how we look at renewables.”

— This post was updated at 11:28 a.m.