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With a vote of 419 to 3, the House of Representatives passed legislation envisaging firmer economic sanctions against Russia as well as a stipulation that would make it harder for the White House to weaken any future sanctions against Moscow.
The overwhelming vote, media noted, was a blow to President Trump, who had asked for flexibility in the adjustment of the sanction policy. Instead, the House passed the new sanction bill with veto-proof majority, The Hill reports, taking away Trump’s chance to block it.
Now, the bill must pass through the Senate, but it’s still unclear when the upper house will vote on it. If it approves the bill, sanctions imposed on Russia two years ago will become a law. Also, fresh sanctions against Iran and North Korea are included in the package.
In short, the future law stipulates that American oil and gas companies cannot do business in Russia or elsewhere if they partner with Russian companies that have a minimum of 33 percent in the venture. Given that Russian oil and gas companies usually hold much more than 33 percent in any joint projects in Russia, the ban is more or less complete.
However, the ban covers all deepwater, shale, and Arctic exploration—worldwide—and that sparked concern in the U.S. oil and gas industry, with insiders warning that it could hurt projects not just in Russia but around the world as well.
Two senior officials, from the US Petroleum Equipment & Services Association and the American Petroleum Institute, wrote to legislators warning that the new, broader sanctions could lead to loss of American jobs, economic contraction, and other unintended consequences.
Europe is also unhappy with the formulation of the sanction package because it also covers Russian export pipelines, which means that U.S. energy companies will be banned from participating in such projects as the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline. However, despite industry expectations that the bill will be tweaked to reflect these concerns, Congress has so far not relented/
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.