The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved U.S. Senator Herb Kohl's bill to permit the Department of Justice to bring actions against foreign states -- such as members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) -- for collusive practices in setting the price or limiting the production of oil. The vote was 11 to 3. Kohl's bipartisan No Oil Producing & Exporting Cartels (NOPEC) Act would help prevent OPEC from manipulating oil production that causes fuel price spikes for American consumers. Kohl has succeeded in passing the legislation through the full Senate twice, most recently in 2007 with 70 votes.
"Now is the time, with the people we represent seeing soaring energy prices eat into their family budgets, to finally pass this legislation into law and give our nation a long needed tool to counteract this pernicious and anti-consumer conspiracy," Kohl said at today's Judiciary Committee executive session.
Kohl's NOPEC legislation makes it clear that OPEC's activities are not protected by sovereign immunity and that the federal courts should not decline to hear such a case based on the "act of state" doctrine. It clears away these technical legal roadblocks so the Department of Justice could bring an antitrust case against OPEC for its price-fixing behavior.
Since May of 2010, the cost of crude oil has risen more than 50 percent, reaching today's level of over $108 per barrel. It is clear that the global oil cartel remains a major force conspiring to raise oil prices to the detriment of American consumers. The actions of the OPEC cartel in recent years demonstrate the dangers it presents. On October 24, 2008, OPEC agreed to cut production by 1.5 million barrels a day, and less than two months later, on December 17, 2008, OPEC agreed to a further 2.2 million barrels a day production cut. The OPEC president admitted that these production cuts were designed to raise the price of oil.
Co-sponsors of the bill include Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).