Hurricanes showed need for emergency oil stockpile that Trump wants to slash, Rick Perry says

WASHINGTON — Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Friday that the recent hurricanes that battered the U.S. are a “good example of why we need an SPR” — the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that was tapped for millions of barrels of oil in the storms’ aftermath.

And the former Texas governor hinted that he may have doubts about a Trump administration proposal to slash that emergency stockpile in half.

Perry said that President Donald Trump had asked “very, very good questions” about whether the reserve was properly structured and if its nearly 700 million barrels was the right amount. But he also stressed that he “didn’t write that budget” that proposed halving the stockpile.

And the Energy Department boss added that Trump “brought me in not to agree with him on everything.”

“These two storms may change everyone’s opinion,” Perry said at a hurricane response briefing with officials from the Homeland Security Department. “Because this has never happened before. And our job is to make sure the United States never gets surprised.”

The Energy Department released about 5 million barrels of oil from the stockpile in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Those deals, effectively loans to certain energy companies, came as the shutdown of Gulf Coast refineries stoked fears of fuel shortage in Texas and beyond.

The reserve hasn’t been tapped after Hurricane Irma in Florida, Perry said.

But the use of the reserve, stored in Texas and Louisiana, nonetheless stood out. That’s because the Trump administration had argued in its first budget that increased domestic production capacity, thanks to the shale boom, had reduced the need for such an expansive stockpile.

And Perry had, in fact, defended the budget proposal by saying that you could “consider pipelines to be a form of storage.”

“If we are building more pipelines in this country so that we have better transportation … maybe that does soften a little bit your concern about reducing some of the supplies,” he told lawmakers this year.

Perry again nodded at those dynamics Friday. He said there were important questions to be asked: Is the reserve structured properly? Is the cost of keeping up the stockpile sites “year after year” worth it? Is there a more efficient way to run it?

But, he said, there was “never, from my perspective, this issue of, ‘Get rid of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.’”

— The Dallas Morning News


Tropical Storm Lee could form this weekend, but weaken next week

MIAMI — A tropical depression that formed late Thursday in the far east Atlantic will likely become Tropical Storm Lee, the 12th named storm of the season, but could weaken again next week.

In their 5 p.m. EDT advisory, National Hurricane Center forecasters said the system is facing moderate wind shear and dry air as it moves to the west, preventing it from intensifying quickly. However, it should strengthen to a tropical storm as it continues moving over warm water this weekend.

After that, stronger shear should shred the storm in about five days.

Friday evening, the storm was located 450 miles south-southwest of the Cabo Verde islands, moving west-northwest at 12 mph. Sustained winds were 35 mph.

More worrisome is another tropical wave east of the storm, about 1,100 miles east of the Windward Islands. While still far from land, the system has a 70 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression over the weekend. Islands in the Lesser Antilles, still recovering from last week’s powerful Irma, could come under a tropical storm or hurricane watch on Saturday, forecasters said.

Forecasters also warned that Jose, which regained intensity Friday afternoon to again become a hurricane, could generate rough surf and dangerous rip currents off North Carolina and up to New England over the next few days.

— Miami Herald


Barton voted against Harvey aid. Now he’s heading a relief task force

WASHINGTON — Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican who last week voted against a federal aid package for Hurricane Harvey relief, will lead a congressional task force dedicated to recovery efforts.

Barton is teaming up with Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar on the panel, which will help coordinate Congress’s response to the one of the biggest natural disasters to ever hit the state.

Barton, whose district includes parts of Arlington and Fort Worth, was one of four Texas House Republicans who did not support Congress’s $15.25 billion in federal relief package last month, because it was tied to an increase in the debt ceiling and a three-month of government funding.

“As much as I want to help Texas, I can’t vote for something that’s a blank check on the debt,” said Barton told the Star-Telegram.

Barton did, however, vote for an earlier aid plan. That legislation would have provided $7.9 billion for Harvey aid, with no link to the debt or budget.

But President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders made a deal to tie the relief package to the debt and budget, requiring the House to vote again on an aid plan. Barton was among 90 other House Republicans who voted no. Texas’ two Republican senators voted yes.

No details about other members were released.

—McClatchy Washington Bureau