A key House panel advanced a bill to lift 40-year-old restrictions on U.S. crude exports as more Democrats said they may be willing to ease the trade limits.
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power passed the measure by voice vote Thursday. Before that, Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican and the bill’s sponsor, said the full committee may vote next week and the full House “reasonably soon” thereafter. The restrictions may be repealed in three to four months, he said during a breakfast meeting in Washington.
Oil producers including ConocoPhillips, Hess Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. are seeking to end the ban, which was enacted during the energy shortages of the 1970s. Four refiners including Delta Air Lines Inc.’s Monroe Energy LLC and PBF Energy Inc. are among those lobbying to keep it. Producers expect to benefit from being able to sell crude abroad, while some refiners fear that U.S. oil may cost more.
The repeal is part of a legislative schedule that includes the nuclear deal with Iran and funding for highway transportation. It will have to compete for floor time with those and other issues, and electoral politics in 2016 may soon complicate controversial legislation.
Lifting the export ban may cost refining jobs in states including Pennsylvania, Representative Michael Doyle, a Democrat from the state, said at Thursday’s hearing. The House should “take the long view” and consider the impact on refiners, consumers and the environment, said Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
The House “Blue Dog” coalition, a group of 15 Democrats who describe themselves as fiscally conservative, endorsed the House legislation on Wednesday. Other members of the party said they are willing to compromise.
“I’m open to working with the export issue” as long as the final bill represents the entire energy supply chain, not just oil producers, said Representative Gene Green, a Texas Democrat whose district includes refineries along the Houston Ship Channel.
Representative Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat, said that while he wouldn’t support a repeal “at this very moment,” he is talking to Republicans about a compromise. Rush’s support for the measure hinges on its benefits for minorities, the lawmaker told Bloomberg BNA’s Ari Natter in an interview.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in July passed a separate bill to lift the ban. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has said there may be room for compromise on the issue.
Barton said he is working with Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican who leads the chamber’s energy committee, to win broad congressional support for the repeal, with the goal of sending a bill to President Barack Obama by Christmas.
The House bill is H.R. 702.