WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and a bipartisan group of Judiciary Committee senators 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 of Minnesota, Mike Lee of Utah and Patrick Leahy of Vermont 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. 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,” Grassley said.
“Current law has made the Justice Department powerless to stop OPEC and its members from coordinating oil production to manipulate prices, driving up costs for millions of Americans. Open competition in international oil markets is critical to ensuring that American families pay fair prices at the pump. 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.
“If private companies engaged in the international price-fixing activities that OPEC has, there is no question they would be found guilty of illegal behavior. There is no reason that the OPEC cartel should be treated differently based on their connection to national governments,” Lee said.
“As Vermonters struggle to heat their homes through another frigid winter, it’s vital to make sure that oil prices are not artificially inflated. I’ve long supported this legislation because it will crack down on the types of anti-competitive behavior that cause prices to spike for Vermonters trying to stay warm through winter, to use their farm equipment, or to get to their jobs or to the market. In this new Congress I’m hopeful we will finally enact these reforms 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. According to recent news reports, OPEC and a group of other oil-producing nations led by Russia are exploring an agreement that could further distort the global petroleum market.
The House Judiciary Committee today advanced identical bipartisan legislation by voice vote without objection.
Text of the Senate legislation is available HERE.