31 May 2014, News Wires – The US energy regulator would like to switch up the approval process for reviewing proposed liquefied natural gas export projects.
The change has been suggested as the US Department of Energy has been inundated with applications amid the US shale boom.
The agency, presently the first to greenlight projects, is charged with deciding whether it is in the US national interest to export natural gas to countries without free trade agreements with the US.
The DOE now wants projects to complete reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (Nepa) and consideration from the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (Ferc) before it evaluates them.
“This proposed change will streamline the regulatory process for applicants, ensure that applications that have completed NEPA review will not be delayed by their position in the current order of precedence, and give the department a more complete understanding of project impacts,” said Christopher Smith, the DOE’s principal deputy assistant secretary for fossil energy.
Presently the agency has been issuing “conditional” approvals pending the resolution of the other regulatory hurdles.
The measure will now enter a 45-day period for public comments.
The DOE has faced political pressure on both sides of the spectrum. Republicans and upstream companies have been keen on allowing more exports to provide markets for US gas.
Some Democrats and downstream chemical companies have opposed the export plans to help maintain cheep supplies of gas for manufacturers and consumers.
So far the DOE has greenlighted seven proposed projects.
The DOE also said Wednesday it would update an economic impact study to evaluating market impacts of exports of between 12 and 20 billion cubic feet per day. A 2012 study found minimal impacts from exports of 6 Bcf to 12 Bcf.
The agency also said it would embark on additional environmental research on LNG impacts throughout the life-cycle of the commodity.