Nine months after President Joe Biden drained the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to its lowest level in nearly 40 years, the White House is requesting $500 million from Congress to improve it, the Washington Examiner reports.
The request would enable the Department of Energy to maintain operational readiness levels at SPR facilities and ease anticipated shortages due to “supply chain issues, the COVID-19 pandemic and related schedule delays,” the White House said.
Charisma Troiano, a DOE spokesperson, told Reuters the funding would be used to perform needed infrastructure repairs and keep the reserve ready for scheduled sales in the future. It would also “address global energy supply chain disruptions,” she said, such as those caused by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
Four sizeable underground salt caverns along the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana house the national energy reserve. Repeated petroleum withdrawals can damage the structural integrity of the caverns, which can require corrective maintenance or outright closure of the facilities.
Biden’s draining of the stockpile has been the largest and fastest since the reserve’s creation in the 1970s and was justified as an attempt to shield U.S. consumers from soaring energy prices caused by the war in Ukraine.
It is unclear how the Biden administration’s SPR drawdowns have affected the structural integrity of the expansive storage caverns.
Tristan Abbey, a former senior policy adviser at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and former director for strategic planning at the National Security Council, in an open letter last month called for a bipartisan investigation into the degree to which Biden’s 180 million barrel sale has damaged the caverns.
“Every single fill and refill stress the structural integrity of this system,” Abbey said, comparing the caverns to a sand castle that “is not designed to withstand repeated waves.”
According to the Examiner, Congress already earmarks funds for SPR improvements. In 2015 lawmakers passed the Energy Security and Infrastructure Modernization Fund, which allocates funding for SPR facility operations, including site development, land acquisition, equipment and “other necessary costs related to capital improvement.”
The SPR funding request was attached to the White House’s supplemental budget request to send nearly $38 billion to Ukraine in aid.
According to the Examiner, the request also includes $126.3 million for the National Nuclear Security Administration to protect against nuclear and radiation attacks in Ukraine.
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