Texas Republican lawmaker Joe Barton
, chairman of the House Commerce Energy Subcommittee
, said he wants a 90-day suspension of rules that do not allow foreign tankers to move crude between domestic ports.
The rules, contained in the Jones Act, need to be altered in order to better supply Northeast heating oil markets this winter, he said.
Barton's legislation would let President Clinton choose
two domestic ports in the United States
for foreign-flagged tankers to transport crude oil
and products. The Jones Act mandates that any oil shipping between
U.S. ports be carried-off by only U.S.-flagged tankers. But concerns about getting much-needed supplies to the nation's heating oil belt
in the Northeast preclude the requirements, Barton said The proposed law to suspend the Jones Act comes extremely close to the end of the current legislative session.
A representative of the Department of Energy, who appeared before Barton's panel to testify about the Strategic Petroleum Reserve swap program, said statistics showed that national heating oil inventories
were 21 percent lower than last year.