Amid aggressive Russian expansion in the wake of political turmoil in Ukraine, new legislation to speed up the approval process for LNG export applications has been put forward in the House and Senate. Russia is the world’s largest exporter of natural gas and much of Russia’s natural gas supply flows through pipelines across Ukraine. Currently liquefied natural gas can only be exported to countries with which the United States has certain trade agreements or through agreements signed off on by a lengthy Department of Energy approval process.
Last week, Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., introduced legislation to speed up the approval process for LNG exports. H.R. 6, The Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act, would facilitate the accelerated approval of LNG export applications that are currently under review by the Department of Energy.
“President Putin and the Russian regime are using their dominance of the European natural gas market to flex their muscles and expand their influence,” said Gardner. “European nations are clamoring for a resource that is abundant in Colorado, but current law restricts our ability to sell it to them.”
Similar legislation has been proposed in the Senate by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., a senior member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, that would expand the ability of energy firms to export liquefied natural gas to more countries around the world including World Trade Organization countries like Ukraine, Japan and India.
"The ongoing crisis in Ukraine — and Russia's threat to use its natural gas exports as a cudgel there — shows why we need to responsibly develop our natural gas reserves and expand our ability to export this resource abroad," Udall said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the Foreign Relations subcommittee with jurisdiction over international energy security, said that he opposes efforts to expedite new natural gas exports.
In response to the calls to rush approvals of more export terminals, Sen. Markey introduced legislation to require the Department of Energy to consider a number of important factors before approving additional natural gas exports to ensure that those exports are in the national interest.
Sen. Markey’s bill, The American Natural Gas Security and Consumer Protection Act, would require that DOE weigh the impacts of proposed exports on consumers, our economy and manufacturing sectors, our national security, our foreign policy, and other considerations.
The Department of Energy has already approved five export terminals that would send up to 4.0 trillion cu. ft. of natural gas abroad every year. That is more than twice what Ukraine uses in an entire year, more than a quarter of what Europe currently imports yearly, and nearly as much as every single American home currently consumes yearly, according to a statement by Markey.
“Using this crisis as an excuse to rapidly and massively expand exports of America’s natural gas won’t help Ukraine now," Markey said. "What massively exporting America’s natural gas will do is undercut American manufacturers trying to create jobs. It will raise costs for consumers already paying high energy bills. It will hurt efforts to move away from coal-fired power plants, increasing the carbon emissions that cause climate change."
And Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has introduced legislation to speed permitting for an all-Alaska natural gas pipeline and LNG project, as well as expanding U.S. natural gas exports to allies overseas.
Begich’s bill, The Freedom Through Energy Export Act, would extend all of the benefits of the 2004 Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Act (ANGPA), excluding loan guarantees, to an all-Alaska route project with a LNG terminal.
The benefits of Begich’s legislation would include empowering the Office of the Federal Coordinator to coordinate permits from 22 federal agencies on the massive $40-$60 billion project.
In addition to the Alaska focus, Begich’s bill also would update current law which outlines two tracks for permits to export LNG: an expedited one for LNG bound for countries with Free Trade Agreements and a slower normal one for all others. The legislation would add NATO members and long-time Pacific ally Japan to the expedited permit country list.
The bill also provides expedited timelines for environmental reviews and permit approval to an all-Alaska pipeline and LNG project, and requires the Secretary of Labor to make grants to the Alaska Workforce Investment Board to train Alaskans and construct a training facility for the thousands of jobs created by the massive infrastructure project.