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Maine congressional delegates sponsor bills banning Russian energy imports

Similar bills in House and Senate are up for debate.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — President Joe Biden addressed the nation Tuesday, announcing a ban on Russian gas imports, likely to pile onto record already prices already seen at Maine gas stations this week.

"We are enforcing the most significant package of economic sanctions in history," he announced from a room in the White House.

"Since [Russian President Vladimir] Putin began his military buildup on Ukrainian borders – just since then – the price of the gas at the pump in America went up 75 cents, and with this action it’s gonna go up further," he continued. "I’m gonna do everything I can to minimize Putin’s price hike here at home."

Meanwhile, Sen. Angus King and Sen. Susan Collins sponsored the Ban Russian Energy Imports Act, which would declare a state of emergency and, until it is lifted, would ban all Russian imports of oil, petroleum products, natural gas, and coal. A companion bill by the same name has been proposed in the House of Representatives. On MSNBC Tuesday morning, King suggested Americans temporarily paying more for gas should be a reasonable sacrifice to end the bloody invasion of Ukraine.

"I saw one of my colleagues put it pretty well the other day, that, look, the Ukrainian people are dying," he told the hosts. "How about we have to pay a little bit more for gas – hopefully on a temporary basis – but that’s the reality that we’re facing. We can’t sugarcoat the fact that there are going to be impacts."

Collins was unavailable for an interview but sent released a statement on the bill.

“The U.S. has been purchasing tens of millions of dollars worth of Russian oil daily," she wrote. "Following a bipartisan effort I joined, that ends now. Cutting off this key source of revenue, as Ukrainian President Zelensky requested, will put more pressure on Putin. We must continue working with European allies to reduce dependence on Russian energy. Rather than turning to authoritarians in the Middle East and South America, we should immediately boost U.S. energy production to lower the soaring price of gas and heating oil.”

The House bill is sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree and Rep. Jared Golden. Both met remotely with NEWS CENTER Maine shortly after Biden delivered his address. 

"Simultaneous with banning the import of Russian oil, we need to be looking after the American people and trying to protect consumers from rising gas prices that are resulting from this conflict in the Ukraine," Golden said.

"We want to set the tone for the whole world to say we should cut off any income to the Putin regime, and we should stop them from having the money to perform the war crimes that they’re performing today," Pingree said.

In his remarks, Biden also said he wouldn’t tolerate American oil companies that would consider spiking prices needlessly.

"Russia’s aggression is costing us all, and it’s no time for profiteering or price gouging," he stated.

The two representatives differed when we asked them whether Congress would punish price gougers.

"We’re already working on investigating that, working on legislation that would punish oil companies for any price gouging," Pingree said. "But I think it’s going to require us to take a careful look at this, and I think there’s a lot of suspicion that this is already going on." 

Pingree also said that the U.S. imposed gas regulations during World War II and went after price gougers. She welcomed a return of similar punishments.

When asked whether he would take action against U.S. oil companies raising prices beyond acceptable profits, Golden said there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

"If these prices continue to go up, that’s gonna be bad for the supply side, so I don’t think these companies want to see these prices maintain where they’re at. I just don’t see any evidence of that," he said. "So, no, I’m not prepared to do that because, like I said, that’s a pretty heavy accusation."

A long-term solution from each elected official is to become energy independent, whether that means drilling for more oil, supporting more green energy, or some combination in between.

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