As the turmoil in Ukraine after the Russian annexation of Crimea continues, the outcry in Europe and efforts in Congress to speed and expand the export of natural gas produced in the United States (U.S.) continue. While the debate is not new, legislators in the United States are using the turmoil in Ukraine to further advance their positions on the gas export issue. Many members of Congress believe that increasing US natural gas exports to countries beyond the free-trade limitation would increase global energy security by providing more countries, particularly US allies, with choices for fuel supply.
Senators Mark Udall (D-CO), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) have introduced S. 2083, the American Job Creation and Strategic Alliances Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Act, that would speed export permits to member countries of the World Trade Organization. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), John Barraso (R-WY) and John Hoeven (R-ND) have introduced similar legislation as an amendment to the Unemployment Extension Bill. Their amendment would extend and expedite LNG export permits for our allies in Ukraine, NATO and Japan. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), James Inhofe (R-KS) and David Vitter (R-LA) have cosponsored the amendment. In the Senate no measures to expedite LNG permits have been enacted.
In the House, on March 6, Representatives Cory Gardner (R-4-CO) and Tim Ryan (D-13-OH) introduced HR 6, the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act. The bill now has 47 cosponsors. On April 9, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power by a vote of 15-11 forwarded the bill to the full Committee on Energy and Commerce. HR 6 provides that all pending LNG export applications to non-FTA countries for which a notice has been published in the Federal Register as of March 6 will be granted without delay or modification.
To date, the current Administration has resisted legislation to modify the LNG export process. As a result, LNG exports to non-free trade countries continue to be difficult. In fact, only six new export facilities have received authorization from the United States government to export to non-free trade countries. The Conoco-Phillips export facility in Alaska was re-permitted for export to non-free trade countries. Also, the Freeport facility was allowed to expand its capacity, but it is not operational yet. However, at many levels, the current Administration has acknowledged that more LNG exports to US allies could help to improve the economies in those countries and reduce their exposure to natural gas supply and pricing risks from Russia. On April 3, Carlos Pascual, currently a State Department energy envoy and former Ambassador to Ukraine said that Europe should not wait on DOE to seek export deals: however, he added that ”we want to allow DOE to make those choices (of export permits) on the merits.”