Western lawmakers urge Energy head to fast-track review of export projects
Written byHANNAH NORTHEY, EnergyWire
Fourteen Western lawmakers are pressing the Obama administration to expedite a review of natural gas exports now scheduled for release in December.
The bipartisan group led by Reps. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) called on Energy Secretary Steven Chu to "avoid any delays in the approval process for pending projects" and called for swift completion of a third-party study on the macroeconomic effects of exporting domestic liquefied gas.
"Creating more opportunities to sell natural gas into global markets and access overseas customers could help the goals of increasing natural gas use and smooth our historical boom-bust cycles," the lawmakers wrote in the letter released yesterday.
DOE delayed its third-party analysis of LNG exports earlier this month and said the study would be completed near the end of the year. The announcement triggered further delays in decisionmaking around major private-sector export investments (EnergyWire, Sept. 18).
Although DOE has approved one LNG export license -- Cheniere Energy Inc.'s Sabine Pass project in Louisiana -- others have been put on hold until the agency conducts an economic study on the effects of exports.
The lawmakers said DOE should issue the report as soon as possible and quickly approve a growing queue of companies hoping to export vast amounts of newly discovered shale gas from the United States. Doing so would smooth out the gas industry's historical "boom-bust cycles," trigger a resurgence for domestic manufacturing and electricity generation and bolster the chemical and agricultural sectors, they said.
Lawmakers from the gas-rich states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas have also urged Chu to fast-track the agency's review of LNG exports.
A bipartisan group of more than 40 House members including Reps. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Gene Green (D-Texas) called on Chu in August to speed up the report and license approvals. The lawmakers complained that DOE doesn't have a "sense of urgency" in approving requests to export LNG (Greenwire, Aug. 7).
But the looming debate of whether Congress should export the country's newly found glut of natural gas or use the product domestically has created a tricky balancing act for many members of Congress and the Obama administration.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), an outspoken critic of LNG exports, has said wholesale approval of exports will trigger sharp increases in power and heating prices, as well as greater expenses for production of steel, plastic and fertilizer and for other industries thriving off cheap gas.
Markey also introduced legislation earlier this year that would bar the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from approving any new domestic LNG export terminals until 2025, but his colleagues argue that new sources of gas across the country are already energizing the economy, and the shale revolution has taken hold of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.
A report released earlier this month by Kevin Book of Clearview Energy Partners found DOE could be considering a limit on total export volumes of LNG that would see four to five major projects permitted to move forward initially with others subjected to more rigorous review.