With the prices of oil reaching highs of four years, long ago dormant proposals allowing the U.S. to sue OPEC nations have been getting new looks on Capitol Hill, though they at one time were considered a longshot of becoming law.
On Wednesday, a subcommittee in the U.S. Senate, will hear testimony on No Oil Producing and Exporting Act or NOPEC, which would remove sovereign immunity that has been a long-term shield for members of OPEC from legal action from the U.S.
The measure would change antitrust law in the U.S. to allow OPEC members to be sued for collusion; make it illegal to restrain gas or oil production; or establish the prices of those,
Past leaders in the U.S. have opposed the bill, but there exists a possibility its success may have increased because of the frequent criticism by President Donald Trump of OPEC.
Saudi Arabia has lobbied the U.S. government to stop the passage of the bill, said sources close to the situation.
Oil companies as well as business groups are opposed to the measure, citing possible retaliation from other nations.
OPEC controls member nations’ crude output through setting targets for production. Prices are 82% higher following the decision by the oil cartel to cut its output at the end of 2016 reaching a Monday price of $84 per barrel and lawmakers have focused their ire on OPEC, saying it is harming the consumer again and represents interference in the Free Market.
The hearing on Wednesday before the Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights may give some insight into the stance by the executive branch, said one analyst on Wall Street.
One witness will be the assistant attorney general of the Antitrust division of the Justice Department Makan Delrahi, who has offered support for the legislation.
A version of the NOPEC that passed Congress in 2007 was shelved when President George W Bush said the legislation would be vetoed.
Chances it would gain passage in 2018 are slim, as the House of Representatives will be in session just 16 days the remainder of the year, which leaves little time for anything unless it is considered must do.