Senator Murkowski plans bill to kill oil export ban

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski said on Thursday she will unveil a bill next week to reverse the U.S. oil export ban in an effort to build support for killing the 1970s-era restriction that drillers say threatens to choke the domestic energy boom.

An oil well is pictured at sunrise in the Bakken oil fields near Sidney, Montana in this November 2014 handout photo. REUTERS/Smithsonian Channel/Handout via Reuters

Murkowski, the Republican chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said she will unveil the bill on Tuesday, although it was uncertain when the measure would get a vote in her committee.

“I am going to be looking for every opportunity we might have to advance it,” Murkowski said in a press conference.

The bill will be a “great talking opportunity at a minimum.”

The legislation, which faces opposition from Democrats including Ed Markey and Robert Menendez, could eventually take the form of a free-standing measure or as an amendment to another wider bill on trade or another issue.

She could also use the bill as a way to push the Obama administration “to use tools they have at their disposal,” to relax the ban, Murkowski said.

The U.S. Commerce Department late last year cracked open oil exports by issuing guidelines to energy companies on what kind of minimally processed light crude called condensate they can export under the ban. But oil producers want the Congress and the administration to fully repeal the trade restriction.

Unless the ban is reversed, they say, a building glut of U.S. light crude will choke off the drilling boom of the last five years, push thousands of people out of work, and hurt the economy.

Murkowski has been one of the biggest supporters of reversing the ban Congress passed in 1975 after the Arab oil embargo led to fears of energy shortages. She tried to add an amendment to reverse the ban to the Senate’s bill to review any deal with Iran over its nuclear program, but the measure was rejected.

Murkowski on Thursday introduced a flurry of 17 bills on other energy issues, from strengthening the power grid to improving efficiency, in a quest to pass broad legislation later this year. Democratic Senators Maria Cantwell and Ron Wyden also introduced bills on bolstering the energy grid on Thursday.

Editing by Eric Walsh