Republicans challenge legality of SPR drawdown

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), the US House of Representatives Energy and Power Subcommittee chairman, will ask the Clinton administration to explain its legal authority to sell 30 million bbl of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Meanwhile, Energy Sec. Bill Richardson plans to meet next week with refiners to urge them to delay routine seasonal maintenance.


WASHINGTON, DC�Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), the US House of Representatives Energy and Power Subcommittee chairman, said Thursday the Clinton administration must explain its legal authority to sell 30 million bbl of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).

Meanwhile, the US Energy Department said Sec. Bill Richardson will meet next week with refiners to urge them to delay routine seasonal maintenance this fall in order to maximize home heating oil production.

President Bill Clinton announced Sept. 22 that high bidders would be allowed to draw down the SPR crude in October and November and replace it with higher volumes next year.

Barton said he no longer was considering filing a lawsuit to block the sale of the oil. But he said the subcommittee would ask President Clinton and Energy Sec. Bill Richardson to give their legal and policy justifications for the action.

The congressman said, �I can find no controlling legal authority that gives them the power to use the reserve.�

Barton and other Republicans at a Thursday press conference said the SPR law clearly states that the reserve is meant to be used only in the event of a severe supply interruption and not as a tool to control market prices.

Barton said Clinton�s action �was a decision made in a political campaign for political purposes.�

Meanwhile, 71 House Democrats wrote Barton, saying his position was �shortsighted, ill-advised, and reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the price and supply disruptions now occurring in world markets.�

The Democrats said Clinton�s announcement of the SPR sale succeeded in reducing oil prices from $38/bbl at the beginning of last week to $31 bbl.

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