The U.S. Senate Energy Committee voted 12-10 on Thursday to lift a 40-year-old ban on the export of crude oil.
The bill, part of of the Offshore Production and Energizing National Security (OPENS) Act of 2015, would allow the U.S. to export oil and increase state revenue-sharing for offshore oil and gas drilling. Advanced by committee chair Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the bill is likely to face opposition from Congressional Democrats in the full Senate who cite concerns that reversing the ban would lead to higher gas prices. Democratic support is viewed as a critical part of getting President Barack Obama to sign crude export legislation.
“Alaska’s natural resources are vital to our prosperity,” Murkowski said. “With exploration proceeding in the Chukchi Sea, and the Alaska offshore emerging as a key part of our national energy security, it’s critical that we ensure revenue sharing for the state and coastal communities and invest in the workforce development, science and infrastructure necessary to bring these vast resources to market.”
The bill's passage was widely praised by industry groups who said it would aid in both economic development and national security, and it also gained support this week from Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
The bill will be taken up on the Senate floor after the August recess.
Also on Thursday, the energy committee voted 18-4 in favor of the bipartisan Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, which promotes energy efficiency and infrastructure enhancements.