Murkowski: Highway bill conference report ensures SPR’s stability

The joint US Senate-House federal highway bill conference report reduced crude oil sales from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve to a level that ensures the US Department of Energy will be able to upgrade the reserve’s infrastructure, US Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) said.

Congressional negotiators reached an agreement on Dec. 1 on the more than $300-billion measure that would fund improvements in highways and other transportation systems over 5 years. The House and Senate were expected to vote on the bill later in the week.

It retained a provision that would authorize $6.2 billion of SPR crude sales to partially pay for the highway projects. “The recent series of proposed and enacted drawdowns constitute a fundamental transformation in the purpose and function of the SPR,” Murkowski said on Dec. 1. “I am encouraged that the compromise on the highway bill reflects my efforts to preserve [its] integrity.”

The senator, who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, strongly expressed her concerns about the concept when it was first proposed (OGJ Online, July 29, 2015). It called for the sale of 101 million bbl of SPR crude for a projected $9 billion of revenue for highway projects in fiscal 2012-18.

That amount has been reduced to $6.2 billion, Murkowski said on Dec. 1 as she released a new report that the committee’s majority staff prepared on cumulative impacts of SPR sales and other considerations.

“Through most of its history, the theme of the SPR was expansion and preparation for emergencies. In the present discussion, that theme has shifted to depletion and revenue-raising,” the senator said. “The SPR was not designed to draw down so much oil so frequently over such a long period of time. All of these issues—the size of the reserve, the integrity of the reserve, and our global standing—should be considered in any discussion related to modernization of SPR.”

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