02 May 2014 – US lawmakers advanced legislation late on Wednesday to limit the amount of time for review of liquefied natural gas export projects in order to get abundant domestic supplies to allied abroad.
The US House energy committee approved the bill that would require the Department of Energy (DOE) to rule on applications no later than 90 days after public comment periods on the proposals conclude.
The bill, passed the committee by a vote of 33 to 18, according to reports. It attracted bipartisan support, though only five of the 24 members on the committee voted in favour.
The bill, which would for the first time impose a deadline for a decision, will now go in front of the full House of Representatives for a vote. It is expected to pass the Republican-controlled chamber. Its fate is uncertain in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
As originally proposed, by Republican Cory Gardner, the bill would have effectively granted automatic Energy Department approval for LNG exports to any country within the World Trade Organization.
But in a rare act of congressional bipartisanship, Democrat Gene Green of Houston led a compromise effort that included the 90-day deadline for a decision. The bill would allow applicants to take legal action against DOE if no decision has been made after 90 days.
“This is an effort to improve the bill, so we can at least keep the Energy Department in the loop,” Green said.
Lawmakers have jumped on the crisis between Ukraine and Russia to push for faster LNG export approvals as a way to lessen Russia’s influence over energy markets in Europe.
There are currently more than 20 pending LNG export applications in front of the Energy Department, more than half of which are more than three months past their comment period. The department must judge whether individual projects are in the best interest of the US economy, among other things.
The legislation working its way through Congress would not remove the existing requirement for LNG operators to gain approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. That process, which determines the environmental impact of LNG projects before construction begins, is more expensive and onerous than gaining DOE approval.
Democrats who voted against the bill said the shorter deadline could lead to flawed reviews of pending applications.
“There’s not much point in preserving the public interest determination if the review is going to be so truncated that there is not an opportunity to weigh the pros and cons,” Reuters quoted Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the committee, as saying.