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Special Energy Report / ENERGY

Mixed Support for Oil-Export Bans in GOP

photo of Amy Harder
February 7, 2012

A top House Republican wants to nix language in GOP-authored legislation poised to hit the floor next week that would ban exports of oil extracted from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge if the long-protected sanctuary was opened to drilling.

Legislation sponsored by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, would open a small part of Alaska’s ANWR and prohibit any oil produced there from being exported. The bill, which passed the Natural Resources Committee last week, is part of a trio of oil- and gas-drilling bills that the House GOP wants to help pay for transportation programs. The House is expected to vote on its infrastructure package next week.

“If you go to the Rules Committee to strike that Young amendment I’ll support you on that,” Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, a senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told House Natural Resources ranking member Edward Markey, D-Mass., during a markup of legislation that seeks to mandate approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. “I don’t think you should have any restrictions.”

 

Luke Miller, a spokesman for Young, declined to comment. A spokesman for Hastings defended the proposed export ban. “One of the primary intentions of opening ANWR for energy production is to reduce American dependency on foreign oil, which Chairman Hastings’s bill achieves by requiring oil produced in ANWR to stay in America and not be shipped overseas,” said Spencer Pederson, a Hastings aide on the Natural Resources Committee.

Barton’s opposition to the export ban in the Young-Hastings bill came to light after Markey accused Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee of hypocrisy for supporting export restrictions on oil produced in Alaska while denouncing an amendment Markey has offered to ban exports of crude oil and refined products from oil shipped through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

“You’ve agreed to an export ban of that oil but opposing this one,” Markey said, looking at Republicans on the other side of the hearing room. “I’m looking forward to each of you next week trying to resolve basically conflicting export, free-market principles on the same day.”

That prompted Barton to say that he would support striking the export-ban language proposed by Hastings and Young. Barton added, “I think he’s only putting that on there to try to get Democratic votes.”

Markey responded, almost jokingly: “I do agree that if we’re drilling in the Arctic Refuge it should stay here.” Markey and many other Democrats are unlikely to support any bill that expands drilling, especially in ANWR, no matter what conditions are added. Democrats have been opposing efforts to open ANWR to drilling for decades.

Markey’s export-ban amendment, which he sought to attach to a bill that would transfer authority over the Keystone pipeline to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, wasn’t welcomed by members of either party during the markup on Tuesday. While some Democrats held their tongues about Markey’s amendment, others openly criticized it.

“Our goal in our country is to have manufacturing capability here so we can export to the world. Why would we say you can’t export a product that’s produced in our country?” said Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas. “I don’t agree with the bill itself, but this is a bad amendment because it takes away manufacturing capability to export.”

Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., also said he didn’t support Markey’s amendment, “but I understand why he’s offering it.”

“What Mr. Markey has done here — albeit the end result is a bad thing and why I won’t support this amendment — he is trying to point out what we need in this debate is some truth in advertising,” Doyle said.

Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., normally a staunch ally of Markey, was gone for most of the debate around Markey’s amendment. But he seemed cool to the proposal when asked about it last week.

“I know a lot of people are advancing that position,” Waxman said. “I’m not on that bill.”

The Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to approve legislation later on Tuesday that would essentially mandate approval of the Keystone pipeline by FERC. Markey’s amendment was expected to fail as the markup continued on Tuesday afternoon.

Olga Belogolova contributed.

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