Barrasso wants to tie gas exports to Ukraine aid

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) wants to tie natural gas exports to the Ukraine aid package being considered by the Senate. 

Barrasso will propose an amendment to the Ukraine economic assistance package for a vote when it is considered by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The assistance bill was originally on the agenda for the committee on Tuesday but was pulled, an aide to Barrasso said.

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The amendment will focus on allowing exports of natural gas to Ukraine and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Calls for expedited natural gas exports to the region have increased in Congress, mainly by Republican lawmakers, as a means to reduce Russia's influence.

"As long as Ukraine and our NATO allies are overly dependent on Russian gas, Vladimir Putin will be able to hold them and their economies hostage. Congress should respond by giving Ukraine as well as our NATO allies an alternative supply of natural gas," Barrasso said in a statement. 

"My amendments will require the Obama Administration to approve applications to export LNG [liquefied natural gas] to countries like Ukraine and our NATO allies." 

"If members are willing to provide American taxpayer dollars for Ukraine to pay its Russian gas bill, Congress should work to ensure that Ukraine has the opportunity to buy U.S. natural gas. By passing my amendments, the United States has the potential to be a strategic energy supplier to our allies," Barrasso said.

But a majority of Democrats aren't eager to back such plans and argue that passing such legislation would have little, if any, immediate impact on the crisis.

“Calls to rubber stamp LNG exports ignore the fact that expediting approvals won’t get gas to the Ukraine any faster,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told The Hill in an email.

“Further, unless Congress directed exports to go to Ukraine, the gas would go to the country paying the highest price, which would likely be in Asia,” Wyden said.

E2-Wire has more about the ongoing debate here.