McMorris Rodgers seeks evaluation of Strategic Petroleum Reserve management

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) led a letter this week requesting that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) evaluate the Department of Energy’s (DOE) management of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).

The May 8 letter addressed to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro also asked that the GAO audit the SPR modernization program authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

“DOE’s mismanagement of the SPR has undermined America’s energy security, leaving the nation more vulnerable to energy supply disruptions and increasing the ability for OPEC and Russia to use energy as a geopolitical weapon,” stated the letter from Rep. McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The letter also was signed by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

The letter noted that the SPR inventory is at the lowest level since 1983. Under President Joe Biden, DOE has overseen the largest SPR drawdown in history, selling off the equivalent to 42 percent of the reserve.

The lawmakers expressed disappointment in the letter about DOE’s decision to put an SPR modernization program known as Life Extension II on hold, which has resulted in delays and cost overruns.

They also expressed concern about new rules created by DOE without congressional authorization for “fixed-price” purchases of crude oil rather than conventional purchase contracts, raising questions about DOE’s SPR replenishment strategy.

Given “the importance of the SPR as an energy security asset, we request that the GAO conduct a programmatic audit of the SPR modernization program, including the status and budget of the Life Extension II program and other relevant programs relating to SPR operations, maintenance, modernization, and acquisition and sales relating to the reserve,” the letter said.