Measure aimed at keeping highway trust fund afloat with oil sales draws criticism from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, vocal supporter of the industry. File photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, July 22 (UPI) -- Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a vocal supporter of the oil industry, said selling oil from strategic national reserves to fund highway projects was bad policy.
Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairperson of the Senate Energy Committee, criticized the so-called bipartisan DRIVE Act, a measure aimed at generating $9 billion for the federal highway trust fund, by suggesting it puts national security interests at risk.
"The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a vital national security asset that must be maintained in case of serious future supply disruptions," Murkowski said. "While I recognize that a long-term highway bill is a priority, a shortsighted sale that undermines our emergency preparedness could have real and lasting impacts on our security."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said they were able to reach across partisan lines to agree on the highway funding bill. A three-year extension for the highway trust fund follows what McConnell said was months of deliberation.
"Senators from both parties know that a long-term highway bill is in the best interest of our country," he said.
The measure, formally the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act, calls for the sale of about 4 million barrels of oil from the strategic reserve in 2018, tiered to increase to 25 million barrels by 2025.
Murkowski said she was opposed to sales from the reserve to fund what she said was unrelated initiatives while the reserve itself is in need of $2 billion in upgrades.
When responding to a House measure that would fund medical research, the so-called 21st Century Cures Act, the federal Office of Management and Budget stressed the "critical importance" of making the investments necessary to modernize the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.