Coronavirus bill strips funding for Petroleum Reserve purchases

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The final version of the Senate’s coronavirus stimulus package left out billions of dollars that had been planned for the Department of Energy to go toward replenishing the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

An earlier draft of the legislation included $3 billion in appropriations for the Energy Department’s SPR Petroleum Account meant “for necessary expenses related to the acquisition, transportation, and injection of domestic petroleum products.” After Democrats resisted, claiming it was an expensive bailout for the oil industry, it was removed from the final version.

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“Here are some of the improvements,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in an announcement about the changes introduced to the bill by him and his party, including, “Eliminated $3 billion bailout for big oil.”

That money was to be used for purchasing oil to top off the U.S. petroleum reserves at a time when prices are low. WTI Crude is currently at just over $23 a barrel, down from a high of $63.27 in January.

The Energy Department had announced last week that it would purchase 77 million barrels of American-made crude oil to begin to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve amid the coronavirus outbreak.

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“DOE is moving quickly to support U.S. oil producers facing potentially catastrophic losses from the impacts of COVID-19 and the intentional disruption to world oil markets by foreign actors,” Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said at the time.

Department of Energy spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in a statement to Fox News that buying oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at a low price "is a common sense move benefiting taxpayers and supporting our nation’s economic and national security interest," while the American energy sector suffers during the coronavirus outbreak.

"Small to medium size American energy companies and their employees should be provided the same relief being provided to other parts of our economy, and the Secretary calls on Congress to work with the Administration to fund the President’s request as soon as possible," Hynes said.

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The elimination of the funding for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was one of several changes made as Democrats and Republicans haggled over the terms of the stimulus package. One provision called for by Democrats – which would have imposed new emission standards on the airline industry – was similarly scrapped.

Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.