Energy & Environment

House Democrats blast GOP oil reserve bill as ‘reckless’

Committee Chair Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) speaks at a House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis hearing entitled 'State Perspectives on Cutting Methane Pollution' on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.
Peter Afriyie
Committee Chair Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) speaks at a House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis hearing entitled ‘State Perspectives on Cutting Methane Pollution’ on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

Democrats on the House Energy and Natural Resources committees blasted a Republican bill to restrict releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) as “reckless” Tuesday, arguing it would limit the federal government’s contingency options in times of crisis.

In a call with reporters Tuesday, House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Raúl Grijalva (D-Aris.) joined Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), former chairwoman of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, in speaking out against the measure.

Castor called the limitations in the bill, which would require the government to increase the land leased for oil and gas development to make further oil withdrawals from the SPR, “not smart.”

“There are too many contingencies in the world today, whether it’s war, supply chain problems [or] natural disasters to irrationally tie the hands of our commander in chief,” Castor said. “This Republican bill also would open up areas to drilling and pollution that should be off limits” such as the eastern Gulf of Mexico, she added.

Pallone blasted the measure as “reckless” and “not serious,” adding that “it’s hypocritical because releasing oil from this probe has been done by presidents of both parties for decades. I’ve been here for 30 years, and they’ve done it on both sides. So Republicans had no problems with it when they went there.”

“There are no restrictions on [the Department of Energy’s] emergency authorities included in H.R. 21. This bill would prevent one of our most important strategic assets from being abused by President Biden as an election-year gimmick to temporarily and artificially manipulate prices,” Sean Kelly, a spokesman for Energy and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, told The Hill in an email. “If the President declares an emergency resulting from an energy supply disruption, the Secretary has full authority to utilize the SPR—HR 21 will not change or hamper that.”

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said earlier this week that President Biden would veto the bill if it reaches his desk, which is unlikely due to the Senate’s Democratic majority.

The Energy Department has sold more than 132 million barrels from the SPR since 2017, including 7 million as part of a Trump-era tax cut bill and 30 million as part of the 2018 Bipartisan Budget Act.

In March 2022, as U.S. gas prices spiked following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration announced a daily release of 1 million barrels a day over the next 180 days.

Updated at 4:49 p.m.

Tags Biden Frank Pallone Jennifer Granholm Kathy Castor Raul Grijalva

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