WASHINGTON Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today introduced bipartisan legislation that will let the federal government take action against price fixing by OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) have cosponsored the legislation.

“It’s long past time to put an end to illegal price fixing by OPEC. The oil cartel and its member countries need to know that we are committed to stopping their anti-competitive behavior,” Grassley said. “We, in the United States, have been working for years to develop our domestic clean, renewable and alternative energy resources. We’re also committed to reducing our reliance on foreign oil, especially when it’s artificially and illegally priced. Our bill shows the OPEC members we will not tolerate their flagrant antitrust violations.”

“Open competition in international oil markets is critical to ensuring that American families pay fair prices at the pump. But under current law, the Justice Department is powerless to stop OPEC and its members from coordinating oil production to manipulate prices and supply, driving up fuel costs for millions of American consumers. Our bipartisan legislation would allow U.S. antitrust laws to be enforced against OPEC producers, helping to ensure that U.S. gas prices are fair and affordable,” Klobuchar said.

“Oil plays a unique role in the global economy,” Lee said. "For years, OPEC has used production quotas to keep oil prices artificially high, directly hurting American consumers in the process. This bill ensures that the Department of Justice can hold entities which engage in open and notorious cartel activity in this important sector to account in U.S. courts.”  

“In another time of rising gas prices, it is vital to American consumers and our economy that we do all we can to make sure that oil prices are not artificially inflated. High oil prices have a particular impact in rural states like Vermont, whether it is home heating oil, fuel for tractors or just driving to work. I have long supported this legislation because it will bring accountability to the types of collusive behavior that spike the cost of gas at the pump. I hope this is finally the Congress where these critical reforms can be enacted into law,” Leahy said.

The No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act, or NOPEC, would explicitly authorize the Justice Department to bring lawsuits against oil cartel members for antitrust violations. It would clarify that neither sovereign immunity nor the “Act of State” doctrine prevents a court from ruling on antitrust charges brought against foreign governments for engaging in illegal pricing, production and distribution of petroleum products.

OPEC is a 15-member organization that accounts for more than 73 percent of the world’s crude oil reserves.

Full text of the legislation is available HERE.