GOP gas exports measure doesn't make cut for Ukraine bill

Sen. John Barrasso's (R-Wyo.) proposal to attach natural gas exports to the Ukraine aid package was ruled out of order at a committee markup on Wednesday.

Barrasso vowed to bring the bill up as an amendment again on the Senate floor, when the full chamber considers the legislation.

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Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) ruled the amendment was out of order.

He said fast-tracking natural gas exports did not fall under the committee's jurisdiction.

Barrasso's measure would have allow for the expedited approval of liquified natural gas [LNG] exports to members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Ukraine. 

He argued the legislation was germane given Russia's use of energy as leverage against Europe and Ukraine, specifically.

"Russia has no problem with using its energy sector to intimidate and to coerce other countries," Barrasso said during the committee meeting. "U.S. has the opportunity to be a strategic energy supplier of LNG to our NATO allies and Ukraine.

"By making it easier to export [liquified natural gas] this amendment would allow increased energy security among U.S. allies and reduce their need to purchase oil and gas from countries such as Russia and Iran."

Barrasso also argued there are other provisions included in the Ukraine aid package that don't fall under the Foreign Relations Committee's jurisdiction.

He cited the $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, and the $157 million in cuts to the Defense Department.

Despite Menendez making clear a vote would not be held on the natural gas proposal, senators engaged in a rather lengthy debate over the idea.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) tied the proposal to Democratic efforts to push through a cap-and-trade bill on the nation's biggest greenhouse gas polluters.

"This type of amendment, which would lead to increases in electricity prices by up to 36 percent for our people, deserves more than just a cursory vote," Boxer said.

Sen Tom Udall (D-N.M.), however, said Congress needs to rethink the current process companies must go through to export natural gas.

"We somehow have to shake up the Energy Department's process because in my mind it is going too slowly," Udall said.

 

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