Congressional Republicans attack Clinton administration on energy

Republicans in Congress Friday increased the pressure on the Clinton administration over rising gasoline prices. They have scheduled five oversight hearings next week on issues related to higher gasoline prices.

Jun 23rd, 2000

Patrick Crow
OGJ Online

Washington, DC�Republicans in US Congress Friday increased the pressure on the Clinton administration over rising gasoline prices.

They have scheduled five oversight hearings next week on issues related to higher gasoline prices:

� On June 27, the House International Relations Committee will grill Energy Sec. Bill Richardson about US actions to influence the oil pricing policies of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

� On June 28, the House Commerce Committee plans a hearing on higher US gasoline costs.

� Also on June 28, the House Judiciary Committee will explore alleged competitive problems in gasoline marketing.

� On June 29, the House Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on the federal government�s response to the recent rise in gasoline prices.

� The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the administration�s response to higher oil prices.

Other congressional actions
On Friday, member of Congress from the Midwest protested federal inaction over $2/gal-plus gasoline prices in Chicago and Milwaukee. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) said at least 25�/gal of the higher prices is due to the Environmental Protection Agency�s refusal to delay use of Phase II summer reformulated gasoline (RFG).

She said, �For the past year, the Illinois delegation has been warning EPA Administrator Carol Browner that the new regulations for the second phase of the RFG program would severely impact the price of gasoline in Illinois.�

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) said President Bill Clinton, Vice-Pres. Al Gore, and Carol Browner �are pointing fingers to blame everyone but themselves for bursting the summer vacation budgets of millions of Americans.�

Rep. Martin Frost (D-Tex.) replied for Democrats. He said, �For 6 years this Republican Congress has been 'absent without leave' on energy policy. They�ve led the fight against energy independence for America�slashing energy efficiency programs, trying to eliminate the energy department and sell off the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.�

Rep. Ben Gilman (R-NY), House International Relations Committee chairman, introduced two bills that he said would thwart OPEC�s �manipulation of the price of gasoline.� One would allow US citizens to sue foreign energy cartels. The second would require the administration to review US policies toward international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, to ensure that they do not indirectly support OPEC's oil price-influencing activities.

Texas Gov. George Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, said Friday that Gore�s 1992 book, �Earth in the Balance,� advocated higher gasoline prices.

Bush said, �Now the price of gas[oline] is high�he seems to be running from his position.�

President Bill Clinton sent Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) a letter expressing concern about gasoline prices and urging passage of several energy bills. Clinton said, �For 7 years, my administration has pursued a sound, comprehensive policy to address the nation�s long-term energy needs. Regrettably, several key elements of this administration�s strategy have languished in Congress.�

Energy Sec. Bill Richardson and Browner announced plans to travel to the Midwest next week to seek �solutions� to the higher energy prices.

On Thursday, 78 members of the House of Representatives urged the administration to release SPR oil to help ease gasoline prices. Separately, more than 50 House Democrats urged the Republican leadership in the House and Senate to push bills reauthorizing the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which has expired. The law permits the President to draw down SPR oil under emergency conditions.

The House has passed a short-term extension and the Senate a different long-term bill, but neither has acted on the other�s legislation.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) filed a bill to require the Department of Energy to monitor US oil and gasoline stocks more closely. DOE would have to notify Congress when inventories fell below certain levels, so it would have time to react before a crisis developed.

Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alas.), the energy committee chairman, Friday offered his omnibus energy bill as an amendment to the Health and Human Services appropriations bill before the Senate. Murkowski�s bill contains a number of energy measures designed to reduce US dependence on oil imports (OGJ, May 22, 2000, p. 28).

Meanwhile, Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) plans to file a bill to allow the Department of Justice to sue foreign countries, such as OPEC members, for price-fixing practices. And Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether recent oil company mergers ;have affected gasoline prices. He said the recent mergers of British Petroleum PLC and Amoco Corp., Exxon Corp. and Mobil Corp., and BP Amoco PLC and ARCO may have contributed to higher fuel prices in the Midwest.

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