Supporters optimistic about natural gas export bill

Representatives who support a measure to expedite applications to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to most countries said Tuesday that they are confident the bill can pass the House with strong, bipartisan support.

Four members speaking Tuesday morning at a Capitol Hill event hosted by the Atlantic Council said most Democratic objections to the bill center around issues with the hydraulic fracturing process, or fracking, and its effect on the environment. The majority of natural gas extraction uses fracking, a drilling practice to which environmentalists object.

“We in the United States have an incredible opportunity with energy when it comes to our economy, energy security and the impact to geopolitical security around the world,” said Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), the bill’s sponsor.

“Our energy can be a leading factor around the world when it comes to helping nations wean themselves off of energy from aggressive nations such as Russia, nations that want to do more harm than good,” he said.

Proposals to increase LNG exports have taken on a new urgency in recent months since Russia and President Vladimir Putin have moved to annex the Crimea region from Ukraine. Russia has also increased the price of natural gas it exports to Ukraine and other Eastern European countries.

Tuesday’s event was sponsored in part by the Visegrad Group, four Eastern European countries that are advocating for increased LNG exports from the United States.

Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) called consideration of Gardner’s bill “an excellent example of not only a thoughtful process, but a bipartisan process.”

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said he is working to convince more Democrats to support the measure.

“I will continue to try and convince some of my Democratic friends who have been a little hesitant, a little skeptical because of the hydraulic fracturing issue in certain areas,” Ryan said, adding that he does not believe the anti-fracking movement to be “very significant.”

Ryan recognized the environmental concerns. “If there are issues we need to address, we need to be careful,” he said.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, was hopeful that Democrats in his committee would join Republicans in voting for the bill at Wednesday’s markup.

“I’m hoping that we have a breakthrough between now and final passage tomorrow to make sure that it is bipartisan, to send the signal — certainly to our friends, but also to the Russians, who have almost doubled the price of energy for our friends in Eastern Europe,” he said.

Gardner said he and his colleagues are considering some amendments that may persuade Democrats to vote for it.

“That’s where we are right now, trying to make sure that those amendments are acceptable to both Democrats and Republicans so we can move forward together to send that signal to the world that the United States is serious about energy security,” he said.

Gardner later said he is considering amendments that would set a timeline for the applications the Department of Energy is currently considering. At the end of the timeline, the amendments would expedite any new applications that are submitted.