Hoeven plans to add lifting of oil export ban to highway bill

WILLISTON, N.D. - Oil industry leaders in Williston applauded efforts to repeal a ban on crude oil exports Thursday which they say could reverse the recent slowdown in oil activity.

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WILLISTON, N.D. – Oil industry leaders in Williston applauded efforts to repeal a ban on crude oil exports Thursday which they say could reverse the recent slowdown in oil activity.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., outlined his proposal to lift the 40-year-old ban during the Williston Petroleum Banquet, talking to attendees who have recently been forced to lay off workers and make other cuts in response to low oil prices.

“What our industry needs right now more than anything is to be able to compete on a global market,” Hoeven said.

Hoeven plans to attach the legislation to the new highway bill that Congress is on track to pass, and he expects a vote on the proposal within the next two weeks.

“It is must-pass legislation, which means it will be hard for the president to veto, and the benefits of allowing crude oil exports are multiple,” Hoeven said.


Mark Gjovig, chief financial officer for GO Wireline, a North Dakota-owned oilfield service company, said allowing the oil industry to compete globally would benefit the whole state.

“I think it will create jobs not only for the oil and gas sector, but it will create jobs across North Dakota,” Gjovig said.

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said lifting the ban makes sense for the economy and energy security and would be a “tremendous help” in the Bakken.

“It’s a significant confidence boost, not only to the Bakken, but really to the domestic oil industry,” Ness said.

Lynn Helms, North Dakota’s top oil regulator, has said lifting the ban could reverse what’s expected to be a gradual decline in the state’s oil production through June 2017.

“We think it has the potential to lift North Dakota crude prices by $10 to $12 a barrel,” Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, told reporters last month. “That’s a substantial change.”

Hoeven said he thinks attaching the repeal to the crude oil export ban to the highway bill makes sense because the highway bill is funded by taking money out of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

“Let’s make darn sure we have a very robust oil and gas industry so we’re not dependent on the Middle East or anyone else,” Hoeven told members of the Williston Basin chapter of the American Petroleum Institute.


But an effort to add a similar amendment to the highway bill failed in the House earlier this month, and even Hoeven acknowledges his plan has a 50-50 chance of success.

“That’s not an easy parliamentary thing to pull off, however it’s not impossible, either,” Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said of Hoeven’s proposal. “I wish him all the best.”

If this effort doesn’t move forward, all three members of North Dakota’s Congressional delegation said Thursday they have other avenues they’re pursuing.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has been working with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to build bipartisan support for their legislation that would lift the ban on crude oil exports.

“We recently started negotiations with a group of Republicans and Democrats to try to reach a compromise to pass our bipartisan legislation that would lift the oil export ban while pairing it with support for renewables, conservation, and energy efficiency,” Heitkamp said.

Cramer said he’s also working to prepare oil export amendments to attach to other pieces of legislation in the House.

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