BOSTON (SHNS/WWLP) – Members of Congress from New England are calling on President Joe Biden to aid families facing high home heating costs this winter by releasing stockpiles from the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve.
In a letter to Biden dated Wednesday, House Energy and Commerce Committee members Reps. Lori Trahan of Westford and Annie Kuster of New Hampshire, and others, said the U.S. Energy Information Administration has reported that diesel and heating oil inventories are 63 percent below the five-year average in the Northeast.
“Getting out front of those issues now makes a good deal of sense. We can’t afford to let people end up doubling or tripling what their energy costs are in a harsh winter,” said Congressman Richard Neal. While Neal’s strategy is to get ahead of the issue, one local oil company says it’s a bit too soon, that these reserves were designed for emergencies.
“Some people say it’s a political maneuver to get more votes. We don’t need it right now. We may need it in the winter months. this isn’t winter yet,” said Marty Topor, President of Central Oil.
Dennis Chaffee has offset heating costs at his home with solar and mini-splits. He thinks the federal governments needs to do something, even increasing domestic production to lower costs, “When they restrict drilling and piping, than you’re dependent on countries that may not be as friendly about pricing structures.”
Russia’s war against Ukraine and an active hurricane season have shaken supply chains and global energy markets, they said. The reserve stores one million barrels of ultra-low sulfur diesel for heating oil, they said, and by law the president is authorized to release oil from the reserve in the event of a “severe energy supply disruption” or a “regional supply shortage of significant scope and duration and that action taken under this section would assist directly and significantly in reducing the adverse impact of such shortage.” “Unfortunately, Putin and the COVID pandemic have inflicted a severe energy supply disruption, and with winter approaching it is critical that you quickly release oil from these reserves to help families stay warm this winter,” the members of Congress wrote.
They told the president that members of the the New England Congressional delegation recently voted to boost funding to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by $1 billion but called that an “important first step” that “must be coupled with the release of these reserves to fully insulate our communities.” “Families should not be forced to make hard choices about keeping loved ones warm and healthy and putting food on the table. We stand ready to work with you and your administration to take the steps necessary to shore up New England’s supply of heating oil so that families throughout our states are not faced with this impossible choice,” they wrote.
The letter was also signed by Massachusetts Reps. Richard Neal, Katherine Clark, James McGovern, Jake Auchincloss, Stephen Lynch, William Keating, and Seth Moulton, and by Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Jared Golden of Maine, Chellie Pingree of Maine, James Langevin of Rhode Island, John Larson of Connecticut, Peter Welch of Vermont, Joe Courtney of Connecticut, Jahana Hayes of Connecticut and Chris Pappas of New Hampshire.