Senator Heidi Heitkamp United States Senator for North Dakota

Press Releases

Dec 18 2015

Heitkamp Statement on Congress Passing Bipartisan Deal to Lift 40-Year Old Ban on Exporting Oil

Senator’s Efforts to Educate, Legislate & Negotiate over Past Year and Half Paved Way for Final Bipartisan Deal

On Wednesday, White House Encouraged Congress to Pass Bill which includes Lifting Oil Export Ban

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today issued the following statement after Congress passed landmark bipartisan legislation to lift the 40-year old ban on exporting oil. Heitkamp’s efforts since the summer of 2014 paved the way for this deal and she was closely involved with negotiations as they took place.

Over the past year and a half, Heitkamp has been working to educate other senators -- especially Democrats -- about the need to lift the ban, meeting with top White House officials, building support for the policy change, and negotiating a bipartisan deal that brought Senate Democrats on board so the policy had enough votes to pass in the Senate. Over the past several months, she has been working with U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Senate Democratic leadership to discuss what a deal to lift the ban could look like, and negotiate such a deal in the end of the year spending bill. The deal also includes part of Heitkamp’s initial legislation to lift the ban to address presidential authority, which was a key piece to bringing Democrats on board. In a statement on Wednesday, the White House urged Congress to pass the bill.

“This bipartisan deal is a win-win for North Dakota,” said Heitkamp. “It lifts the oil export ban – which I’ve been advocating for a year and a half and helped negotiate, provides needed certainty for our state’s wind producers, and renews some faith in Congress by showing that when Republicans and Democrats work together, we can get things done. Lifting the oil export ban has been my top priority in Congress – but you can’t pass legislation by yourself. It was through many months and hours of educating other senators, especially Democrats, about the merits of changing this policy, and working through good-faith efforts to reach a bipartisan deal that brought enough Democrats on board so we had the votes to overturn this outdated ban on exporting oil. The facts are clear – lifting the ban is good for consumers, our economy, national security, and energy security. We have made swift progress to get to this point, and I always believed that it both sides were willing to come to the table, changing this policy this year was possible. I’m hopeful this type of true legislating paves the way for more bipartisanship in Congress which is long overdue.”

Though supportive of standalone legislation to lift the oil export ban – as her bipartisan legislation with U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) would do -- Heitkamp has long said that to actually gain strong bipartisan support to lift the ban, there needed to be a deal to bring along enough Democrats – and that’s what she has been working to do for months. She spoke publicly about negotiating a deal to end the ban during an event on the oil export ban in September.

A key piece of Heitkamp’s legislation to lift the oil export ban – which passed out of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs in July – was included in the final deal. Heitkamp’s language would give the President the ability to impose restrictions on oil exports, like licensing requirements, for up to one year under certain special circumstances – and if necessary, the ability to extend those requirements or restrictions annually. Some of these special circumstances include: national security threats, national emergencies, sustained crude oil shortages, and when supply shortages or price increase are likely to negatively impact employment.

The final bipartisan deal – which Heitkamp helped negotiate – lifts the oil export ban as well as includes a five year retroactive extension of the Production Tax Credit through 2019, which supports wind energy, and a five year extension of the Solar Investment Tax Credit, which supports solar energy. The bill also includes a three year extension of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports the development of outdoor recreation areas.

Heitkamp has also long advocated to extend the Production Tax Credit (PTC) to support the development of wind power, which was included in the deal. The PTC is a tool that has proven successful in driving up wind and alternative energy output nationwide, providing much needed certainty for wind energy workers across the country. In North Dakota alone, up to 3,000 jobs were supported by the wind production industry in 2014.


Click here to view a timeline of Heitkamp’s efforts to lift the ban over the past year and a half. She has been an early and vocal leader in Congress to lift the oil export ban by:

Speaking out early about the need to lift the ban. In August 2014, Heitkamp spoke about the need to end this antiquated policy during the national energy strategy meeting the U.S. Department of Energy held in Bismarck at her request. Then in September 2014, Heitkamp and John Hess, the CEO of Hess Corporation, appeared together on CNBC’s Squawk Box where they talked about the need to lift the ban. 

Introducing bipartisan legislation with Murkowski to end the ban on exporting oil. The two senators crafted and introduced bipartisan, complementary bills expressly intended to merge which went through the senators’ respective committees – Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs and Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Their bills passed out of both committees. Prior to introducing their legislation, Heitkamp and Murkowski first pushed together for an amendment to lift the ban to legislation that would give Congress the ability to review any nuclear deal with Iran. They then worked together on two similar amendments to the National Defense Reauthorization Act in June.

Meeting with senators and educating them about why lifting the ban makes sense. For about a year, Heitkamp has been taking the time to meet with Democratic senators to explain the economic, national security, and energy arguments for lifting the ban. As a result of her efforts, over the past several months, many Democratic senators publicly expressed a willingness to discuss lifting the oil export ban. In June, Heitkamp posted on Medium explaining the reasons for lifting the oil export ban.

Advocating for strong bipartisan support for lifting the ban. Though in favor of standalone legislation to lift the ban -- as her legislation would do -- Heitkamp has long said that to actually get bipartisan support to lift the ban, there needs to be a deal with Democrats – and that’s what she’s been working to do for months. Heitkamp publicly made the case for such action during a National Journal event in September about lifting the oil export ban where she said she believed Congress could lift the ban by the end of the year if senators come together, negotiate, and agree to pair such a policy with other provisions perhaps dealing with renewable energies to build more support from Democrats.

Helping pave the way for and participated in negotiations over several months the led to a bipartisan deal. Over several months, Heitkamp met with congressional Democrats and Republicans, including Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) who has legislation in the House to lift the ban, as well as top leaders at the White House -- including the President and chief of staff – and top leaders and diplomats from the European Union to discuss how to reach a deal to lift the ban on exporting oil. Such discussions framed the efforts this fall for Heitkamp and Heinrich who, working with Senate Democratic leadership, led efforts to determine how a package to lift the ban paired with Democratic priorities might work. Heitkamp then worked closely with Senate leadership over the past several weeks as they negotiated a final bipartisan deal that included key pieces from her standalone legislation.


Contact Senator Heitkamp's press office at