10 April 2014, News Wires – A US House of Representative panel voted on Wednesday to advance a bill that would eliminate the need for government approval of liquefied natural gas exports to World Trade Organisation members.
The vote sends the bill to the full Energy & Commerce Committee for consideration and, if passed, would then head to lower legislative chamber for another vote.
The legislation would essentially end the Energy Department’s review of LNG export applications and give LNG producers permission to sell gas to any of the more than 159 countries that belong to the WTO. Projects must currently win DOE approval if they are to ship LNG to countries without free-trade agreements with the US.
The bill passed by the subcommittee vote of 15 to 11, along party lines in the Republican-led chamber, Reuters reported.
Proponents have seized upon the crisis in Ukraine to push for faster approval of LNG projects as a means to use abundant US gas supplies to minimise Russia’s influence on energy markets in Europe.
“Opposing this legislation is like hanging up on a 911 call from our friends and allies,” said Colorado Republican and bill sponsor Cory Gardner, according to Reuters.
The bill is likely to pass the Republican-controlled House, but will face an uphill battle in the Democrat-held Senate.
Opponents say the bill will do little to provide immediate assistance to Europe or Ukraine because commercial LNG production is still years away, and most of the early loads are already promised to Asian nations.
Democrat Henry Waxman has argued that shipping too much gas abroad could cause fuel prices to rise in the US.
DOE has so far granted seven export permits. Another 24 applications are pending.
The bill would not affect the required Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s review of the safety and environmental impact of LNG export facilities, which is generally a much more arduous and involved process.