Legislators push back on proposed DoE LNG export approval process

Legislators recently pushed back on the Department of Energy’s (DoE) proposal to reform its approval process for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to non-Free Trade Agreement (FTA) countries.

The DoE issues conditional authorizations for LNG exports to non-FTA countries before private project backers and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) review and report on compliance with environmental laws and regulations under the current approval process.

Proposed changes call for the DoE to make a final “public interest determination” only after a project clears the National Environmental Policy Act review process rather than issuing conditional authorizations to initiate the process.

Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said some companies would benefit from the proposed change, but he also expressed reservations.

“My concern is that this also gives left-wing environmentalist groups the power to file lawsuits and delay projects indefinitely,” Cassidy said. “I don’t trust the Obama administration to be neutral, and I don’t trust the government to pick winners and losers. The Obama administration knows the American people do not like their anti-energy agenda, so they prefer to push their policies through bureaucratic mandates and not through Congress and the rule of law.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) also pushed back on the proposed rule change in a joint statement.

“Rather than working with Congress to fix the problem, the administration announces an abrupt move to introduce new excuses to delay an already broken process,” Upton and Gardner said. “This action will further slow down approvals and could discourage investment in export projects. Instead of adding more uncertainty to the process, we need a solution that brings an end to the existing queue.”

Gardner, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, authored the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedoms Act, which would streamline the approval process for U.S. LNG exports and grant approval to applications pending with the Department of Energy.

“(The Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedoms Act) is the answer, which passed our committee with bipartisan support,” Upton and Gardner said. “By simply requiring DoE to make a decision, we can avoid more Keystone-like delays and send a much-needed and immediate signal to our allies, and our enemies, that American natural gas will be an available source of affordable energy.”