WASHINGTON – A U.S. Senate panel will consider as soon as next week a bill to open the OPEC oil production group and countries working with it to lawsuits for collusion on boosting petroleum prices, a Senate aide said on Thursday.

U.S. Senate panel expected to vote on bill allowing anti-trust lawsuits against OPEC-oil and gas 360

Source: Reuters

The bill, sponsored by Republican Chuck Grassley and Democrat Amy Klobuchar and others, will be considered as the Biden administration struggles to control oil and gasoline prices that have surged on uncertainty about global crude supplies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The NOPEC bill gives the option to the U.S. Attorney General to sue oil-producing countries, such as those in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, under anti-trust laws. A similar version passed the U.S. House Judiciary Committee last year.

The Senate Judiciary Committee canceled a meeting on Thursday in which it would consider the measure. A Senate aide said the committee would likely consider it next Thursday.

Prices for international Brent crude rose about 1% above $106 per barrel after an Russian economic ministry document showed Russian oil production could fall by as much as 17% in 2022. Saudi Arabia, the top producer in OPEC, has also rebuffed calls by Washington to boost oil output by more than gradual increases it has agreed to as a member of the OPEC+ group which includes Russia.

An analyst group said while NOPEC legislation has failed in the U.S. Congress for almost 22 years, this could be the year it passes because of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which has recently been producing about 10% of the world’s oil.

“Lawmakers could simply graft it onto a supplemental funding package to support the Ukrainian response to the Russian invasion,” said ClearView Energy Partners, a nonpartisan research group, in a note to clients. “If that were to occur, the bill could become law within a matter of weeks.”

If the legislation passes both chambers of Congress, it would need President Joe Biden’s signature to become law. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether Biden supports the bill.

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