Feb 18, 2000
Press Release

NEW YORK -- Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) urged Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson to immediately release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in order to address the crisis caused by high home heating oil prices in the Northeast. The SPR is a national reserve of oil created by the federal government during the 1970s to respond to oil supply shortages. In a letter to Secretary Richardson, Maloney praised the recent decision by President Clinton to increase assistance to low-income residents through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), but urged the Administration to take the next logical step of selling off some of the SPR. In the letter, she explained that only selling off part of the SPR would bring about a significant drop in heating oil and gasoline prices and that action should be taken immediately to provide assistance to all residents of the Northeast.

Maloney said of her request: "The President is right to assist low-income residents who are struggling with these mammoth home heating bills. I have asked the Administration to release additional funds for LIHEAP on several occasions and I commend the President for releasing $130 million in additional funds for the program. Still, with such high prices we need to do more. Heating-oil prices are now on average $2.25 per gallon in New York City, while last year the price averaged $.91 cents per gallon. When oil prices are almost triple what they were even a year ago, everyone needs relief."

Maloney's letter further argued that a release from the SPR was a necessary response to OPEC's unreasonable production quotas. "At a time when New Yorkers are suffering, it is unconscionable that countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia continue to restrict their oil exports," she stated. "Releasing oil from the SPR will send a clear message to OPEC and show that the US government will always put the well-being of its consumers ahead of the profits of these oil barons."

"New Yorkers work hard to make a living," Maloney continued. "These crushing bills force many people to choose between heating their homes and providing health care and food for kids. That is why I have urged Secretary Richardson to take action without delay."

Congresswoman Maloney is a cosponsor of legislation that would give the Secretary of Energy greater authority to draw down the SPR when oil prices exceed $25 a barrel for more than two weeks. In addition, she has been a consistent supporter of the LIHEAP program, which provides energy assistance for low-income families. Earlier this week, President Clinton announced that he would release an additional $130 million in LIHEAP funding, $37 million of which will go to New York State. Additionally, he announced that he would encourage states to expand eligibility for the program, which is currently limited to families with incomes less than 150% of the poverty line.