Poneman noted the department is vetting a large number of public comments on the analysis of exports that Energy commissioned.
Plans to export gas to countries without formal trade deals face, by law, a much more intensive level of vetting. One of the pending applications dates back to 2010.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) bashed the length of the department reviews during Thursday’s hearing on its proposed fiscal 2014 budget.
“Investors are beginning to interpret DOE’s inaction as a decision against LNG exports, and I think this is a terrible precedent to set,” Barrasso said.
He said this would signal that the U.S. “isn’t serious” about increasing exports and creating well-paying jobs, and show that opponents can block exports.
Poneman said the department is focusing intently on the applications and the reviews required by law.
“We are working on this very hard. We are clearly aware of the benefits that exports can bring,” he said.
“But ... we have to take into account domestic effects and a full range of those issues that would feed into the public interest determination that the Natural Gas Act requires, but we are keenly aware of the need to be acting and we are working on it very hard,” Poneman said.
Proposals that would greatly expand U.S. gas exports are the subject of a major lobbying and political battle.
Supporters — which include various business and oil-and-gas industry groups — say exports are a good way to get an additional economic boost from surging U.S. natural-gas production.
Opponents, including a few big chemical and steel companies, fear an export surge would drive up prices, hurting consumers and energy-hungry domestic manufacturers.
Some environmentalists are also wary of policies that could catalyze more domestic production enabled by hydraulic fracturing.