Williston Herald: MonDak legislators target Russian oil with legislation

by Renee Jean

Russia still has as much as 848,000 barrels of oil still flowing into America each year, but a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers hopes to change that.

The group, which includes Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester as co-sponsors, announced legislation to ban Russian oil imports on Friday in a joint press conference that brought unlikely political allies together.

“I don’t believe this country should be importing anything form Russia,” Sen. Jon Tester said during a televised news conference that included Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, among several others. “But the fact of the matter is his energy is something that Putin depends upon for his finances, and he’s depending on it to fight this war in Ukraine.”

Tester lamented the tragedy happening in Ukraine right now, and added, “It’s the very least that we can do, to stop any energy imports into this country. It think it will have a dramatic effect, and it will send an even bigger message that the United States is in this with the Ukrainians for the long haul. I want to thank Joe and Lisa for bringing us together. We almost got the band back together. Thank you very much.”

Sen. Steve Daines was not present during the news conference, but is also a co-sponsor on the bill, and sent out a statement.

“President Biden and the United States need to unleash American energy production and stop funding Putin’s ruthless war chest,” Daines said.

The bipartisan, bicameral bill as proposed would declare a national emergency as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and directs President Joe Biden to prohibit imports of crude oil, petroleum, petroleum products, LNG and coal from Russia. The approach is modeled soon the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

The legislation doesn’t create any new authority. Biden already has the authority to ban Russian imports of oil. Either Congress or the President could terminate the emergency import ban.

The ban would not apply to product that is already loaded and in transit at the time of enactment.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, in North Dakota, is also listed as a cosponsor of the bill.

“We must do all we can to squeeze Russia’s energy revenues,” Cramer said. “It starts with banning Russian energy imports. We also need to send the signal that America can be energy independent and will not help fund Vladimir Putin’s aggression. We have the natural resource sin our backyard necessary to displace Rusia’s dirtier product. In the wake of Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine, this is a step we must take for national energy, and economic security.”

Senators Cramer, Manchin, and Murkowski were joined by Senators John Tester (D-MT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Mark Warner (D-VA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Rob Portman (R-OH). Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-5) will introduce companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sen. John Hoeven, meanwhile, has introduced the American Energy Independence from Russia Act in the Senate with his fellow Republicans. That legislation, while not bipartisan, is also bicameral.

Hoeven’s bill lists authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline up front and center. Heavy Canada crude that would have been carried by Keystone would be a suitable substitute for heavy crude from Russia. Refineries on the Gulf Coast are generally tooled to use heavy crude in their processes.

Most do not believe it likely that TC Energy would take up the beleaguered pipeline again at this point. The pipeline was first cancelled by the Obama administration, approved by the Trump administration, and then cancelled by Biden on day one of his presidency. The company filed a $15 billion NAFTA complaint related to that cancellation last year and announced it is cancelling the project for good.

Hoeven’s bill also removes regulatory hurdles to increase liquefied natural gas exports, prohibits any presidential moratoria on new energy leases, requires the U.S. Department of the Interior to hold a minimum of four oil and natural gas lease sales in each state with land available for leasing in fiscal year 2022, and prohibits the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy from drawdowns of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve until the Secretary of the Interior issues a plan to increase oil and gas production on federal lands and water.

The legislation also directs the Biden Administration to submit a plan to Congress within 30 days that provides an energy security evaluation nd risk assessment, along with a plan to leverage America’s abundant oil and gas reousrces to offset imports from Russia.

“Over the past year, the Biden administration has locked away our nation’s energy reserves and impounded American energy independence, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reveals the true consequences of separating energy policy from national security policy,” Hoeven said. “Our legislation is about harnessing America’s abundant energy resources to offset imports and revenue flowing to Russia, and taking immediate steps to encourage and empower domestic energy production. I appreciate my colleagues in the Senate and House who support these efforts and will continue pressing the administration for increased American energy production.”

Cramer is a co-sponsor of Hoeven’s legislation as well.

“North Dakota’s excellence is a road map for American energy independence. We can unleash energy dominance by bringing American energy production back online. This is geopolitical leverage to counter Putin and other adversaries. We not only produce it better, but we have much higher labor and environmental standards. This is good policy for North Dakota and our nation,” Cramer said.