UPDATE 2-Senate panel passes bill to lift U.S. oil export ban, future uncertain

Thu Oct 1, 2015 5:02pm GMT

(Adds Democrats in paragraph 8 saying bill wouldn't necessarily help allies)

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON Oct 1 (Reuters) - A bill to lift the 40-year-old ban on U.S. oil exports passed the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday, but the future of the measure is uncertain in the full chamber, after a controversial amendment was added to it.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Heidi Heitkamp a Democrat from oil-producing North Dakota, passed 13 to 9. Heitkamp was the only Democrat to vote for the measure.

Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican of Pennsylvania, added an amendment to the bill that would make Iran compensate U.S. victims of Iranian backed terrorism, language that senators said would doom the bill's future.

"The bill is dead," because of the addition of the Toomey amendment that the White House likely opposes, said Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat of Montana.

Tester said relaxing the trade restriction could offer Montana, another big oil producing state, some benefits, but legislation to do so would have to be done in a way that does not put jobs at oil refineries and in shipbuilding in danger.

The White House has said it opposes legislation to lift the ban at this time. In addition, it has threatened to veto any bill preventing the president from providing sanctions relief to Iran until $40 billion dollars in restitution has been paid to American victims of Iranian-backed terrorism.

Oil producers and other supporters of lifting the ban, which Congress passed in 1975 when fears about fuel shortages were high, say the restriction will choke the drilling boom as a domestic oil glut grows. Opponents say lifting the ban could harm the environment and hit jobs related to oil refining and shipping.   Continued...

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