House GOP again pushing bill to speed up Energy Dept. reviews of LNG projects

House Energy and Commerce Committee member Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, on Jan. 14 introduced H.R. 351, the “LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act,” which would help expedite the approval of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects.

Increasing U.S. LNG exports will help strengthen the domestic economy and create U.S. jobs while increasing energy security for U.S. allies abroad, said a Jan. 14 statement on the bill from committee’s Republican majority. By 2018, the construction of new LNG export projects is estimated to create up to 45,000 American jobs.

This legislation would bring certainty to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) export approval process and help eliminate delays that have held up construction of LNG projects. It places a 30-day deadline on DOE to issue a final decision on applications following the conclusion of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review of the LNG facilities. Several Republican and Democratic colleagues joined Johnson in cosponsoring the bill, which mirrors legislation that passed the House in 2014 in the 113th Congress by a bipartisan vote, but died in the Senate. The Senate this year has a new Republican majority, which may aid the bill this time.

“Due to the shale development taking place across Eastern and Southeastern Ohio, and throughout the country, America is able to produce large quantities of natural gas like never before. The economic and geopolitical benefits associated with expanding LNG exports are significant and important,” said Johnson. “For too long the approval process for LNG export permits has been bogged down by bureaucratic red tape. I’m honored to have introduced this bipartisan legislation to expedite the approval process for LNG export permits.”

“With our vast LNG resources, we have a chance to help our global allies and ourselves, and this bipartisan bill will ensure we don’t squander the opportunity before us,” added House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich. “Less than a decade ago we were building LNG import terminals to meet our energy needs. But today, thanks to the shale boom, LNG export terminals are in high demand as the rest of the world seeks to buy our natural gas excess.”

On Jan. 6, U.S. Senators John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., introduced the “LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act.” This legislation is also designed to speed up the approval process for exports of LNG to countries which do not have free trade agreements with the United States. It specifically requires the Secretary of Energy to make a decision on any LNG export application within 45 days after the environmental review document for the project is published. 

“LNG exports will create jobs across the country, reduce our nation’s trade deficit, and strengthen the energy security of key U.S. allies who are eager to buy America’s natural gas,” said Barrasso. “Right now, LNG exports are being stalled by Washington red tape and permitting delays. Our bipartisan bill fixes this by creating clear deadlines that force Washington to make timely decisions on these critical energy permits. This is a win-win for our economy and America’s national security interests.”

“Natural gas has significant environmental benefits compared to other fossil fuels, and can reduce global carbon and toxic air pollution,” said Heinrich. “Improving the process for reviewing permits to export U.S. natural gas to our allies would create jobs in states like New Mexico because we’re rich in the resource. If the U.S. does not aggressively market LNG abroad, many of these countries may have no choice but to purchase energy from Russia or other nations that are not aligned with our own national interests.”

Prior to approving applications to export natural gas to countries which do not have free trade agreements with the United States, the Secretary of Energy must make a public interest determination which includes a public comment period. This process is often plagued by long delays that undermine the ability of American businesses to compete for overseas markets, the senators said.

The bill would provide an applicant with expedited judicial review (in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit or the circuit in which the export project will be located) if the Secretary fails to act within 45 days or if the project is subject to a legal challenge, and require LNG exporters to disclose the country or countries to which LNG has been delivered and require the Secretary to make this information available to the public.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.