With oil prices rising to four-year highs, renewed interest in Congress is rekindling long-stalled proposals that would allow the United States to sue OPEC nations after it was seen as a slim chance of becoming law.
A Senate subcommittee is due to hear testimony on the so-called monopoly oil production and export ban law, or NOPEC, which would lift the long-standing sovereign immunity of OPEC members from the United States taking legal action against them.
The bill is aimed at changing the US antitrust law to allow OPEC producers to be sued for collusion, restricting oil or gas production or setting prices would violate the law and remove the sovereign immunity of US courts under the current law.
Former US presidents have opposed the NOPC bill, but its chances of success may increase, given US President Donald Trump's repeated criticism of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), while some expect Brent crude to reach $ 100 a barrel soon.
"OPEC is a nuisance for him," said Joe MacMonnigel, chief energy analyst at Hedgei Potomac Research. "Everyone thinks he could simply support Nubak."
Informed sources said that Saudi Arabia is exerting pressure on the US government to prevent the adoption of the law.
Business groups and oil companies oppose the law because other countries may take countermeasures.
OPEC controls output by setting production targets, and prices rose 82 percent after OPEC's decision to cut production by the end of 2016 to $ 84 a barrel on Monday. Legislators are angered by the organization, saying it is hurting consumers again and interfering in free markets.
MacMonigel said the hearing on Wednesday, the sub-committee on antitrust policy, competition protection and consumer rights, could shed light on the position of the executive branch.
Among those who will appear before the committee is McKin Delheim, assistant attorney general for the antitrust sector at the Justice Department, who wrote in support of the legislation.
The two chambers of Congress approved a copy of the 2007 NOPC law but was frozen after former President George W. Bush said he would veto the legislation. This year's lawmakers are limited. The US House of Representatives is due to hold its sessions for only 16 days in the remainder of this year, leaving little time for anything except the necessary legislation, such as maintaining government funding.
The sources said Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, was concerned that Nubak might mimic the Justice Act against the sponsors of terrorism, which allows victims of the September 11 attacks in the United States to sue Riyadh.
Justa's law is seen as a key factor in Saudi state-run Saudi Aramco's reluctance to list its shares in US markets in an initial public offering that has been postponed.
With Saudi Arabia investing about $ 1 trillion in the United States, Riyadh has a lot to lose if it becomes a law. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Faleh has raised concerns about the law with US officials, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, at private meetings held in recent months, two sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Earlier this year, the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute informed Congress of their opposition to the bill, saying that the rise in US energy production had reduced OPEC's influence.
Since the renewal of US sanctions on Iran in May this year, other countries, including Saudi Arabia, agreed to increase production. But that has not stopped the upward trend in prices.