On June 25, 2014, the US House of Representatives approved H.R. 6, the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act, by a 266-150 vote. The Energy and Commerce Committee reports that the bill, authored by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), is intended to expedite exports of US liquefied natural gas (LNG), boosting the US economy and increasing global energy security. The bill would amend the US Department of Energy (DOE) approval process for LNG exports, as follows:
- 30 Day Deadline. The bill would require DOE to issue a final decision on any application to export LNG within 30 days of the conclusion of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review of the LNG export facilities. See our related blog on a pending DOE proposal to defer action on applications to export LNG from the Lower-48 states to countries that do not have a relevant free trade agreement (FTA) with the US until the applicants have completed the NEPA review process.
- Federal Court Review of DOE Decisions. The bill would (1) grant the United States Court of Appeals for the circuit in which the export facility will be located original and exclusive jurisdiction over any civil action to review DOE’s order on an LNG export application or DOE’s failure to issue a final decision, and (2) further require that any such matter be set for expedited consideration. If the court finds that DOE has failed to issue a final decision on the application, “the Court shall order the Department of Energy to issue such final decision not later than 30 days after the Court’s order.”
- Public Disclosure of Export Destinations. The bill would require the applicant to publicly disclose the specific export destinations as a condition for approval of any LNG export authorization.
The prospects of passing the Senate version of the legislation are complicated by several factors, including significantly, the upcoming midterm elections. After passing the House bill, Reps. Gardner and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), challengers to incumbent Democratic Sens. Mark Udall (CO) and Mary Landrieu (LA), respectively, issued statements pressuring their opponents, claiming that “[r]elying on their supposed clout, Senators Udall and Landrieu shouldn’t have any trouble convincing Harry Reid to hold a vote, especially considering our legislation received the support of House Democratic leadership.” The Wall Street Journal reports that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Sen. Landrieu chairs, plans to vote on the bill introduced by Sen. Udall, S. 2494, the Natural Gas Promotion Act of 2014, although the exact date of such a vote has not been set.
Concerns over the Russia-Ukraine conflict and Ukraine’s dependence on Russian natural gas in part motivated the LNG export bills in both chambers; however, some political commentators have argued that these issues have not received the same peak levels of media attention as several months ago. Thus, the sense of political urgency may weaken.