DOE Withholds Records on Strategic Petroleum Reserve Release

FGI files suit to discover if politics played a role 

July 7, 2022

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) announced transparency litigation against the Department of Energy (DOE) seeking records on the Administration’s decision to release millions of barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).

In November 2021, amidst skyrocketing gas prices, the Biden Administration announced it was going to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and withdraw 50 million barrels of oil. The SPR was created by Congress following the Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s with the intent to maintain a reserve to address severe disruptions in supply. As the administration draws from the reserve, there has been no major disruption in the oil supply that would have warranted such a withdrawal. By contrast, the Colonial Pipeline hacking attack in May of last year, which disrupted fuel supplies to the East Coast, did not trigger a release from the SPR.

FGI’s document request was triggered by concerns the decision to drawdown was in response to the Administration’s falling approval numbers, due in part to rising gas prices, rather than disruptions in supplies. The Administration has since made additional releases from the SPR following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These releases have depleted the reserve to dangerous levels not seen since the 1980s.

In January 2022, FGI opened up an investigation into the decision to release the first 50 million barrels from the SPR. Despite repeated efforts by FGI to work with DOE during this investigation, the agency has not complied with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and FGI believes this lawsuit is the only way to force DOE to release the records that could show the true basis for this unprecedented drawdown of the SPR.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“With each release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, we weaken our ability to respond to a legitimate supply crisis. The SPR was created to respond to real emergencies, a category that does not include falling poll numbers caused by a failed energy policy. Americans deserve to know if political motives are behind moves that put their security at risk.”