Landrieu tries to find middle ground on natural gas exports

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is trying to find middle ground on the hot topic of natural gas exports, which Republicans are pushing in light of Ukraine's energy woes.

After holding a second hearing on liquefied natural gas exports Thursday, Landrieu spoke with reporters about possibly moving on legislation sponsored by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.)

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Both senators are up for reelection and are dealing with unrelenting scrutiny from the GOP on their energy chops.

Still, this past week Landrieu and Udall worked to revise his legislation, which seeks to set a new 45-day limit on the Department of Energy's process for approving natural gas export applications.

The updated legislation may give Udall a slight edge over his challenger Rep. Cory Garnder, whose bill would enforce a 90-day window. Gardner's bill passed out of committee in April, and is set to go to the House floor for a vote next week.

To warm Democrats to the idea of exports, or merely the idea of voting on Udall's bill, Landrieu moderated a policy lunch with the Democratic caucus Thursday.

"It was a very excellent discussion, unusual, but excellent. even ones that were hesitant about having it were happy that we did because in our caucus there are a lot of different views about this," Landrieu told reporters. "If we can come together it will help them merge with a consensus with Republicans."

Democrats like Sens. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), and Ed Markey (Mass.) are vocal critics of exporting natural gas, claiming it will send prices at home skyward, and hurt the consumer.

While pro-fossil fuel Democrats like Landrieu and Udall, along with Republicans, argue that there is room for the U.S. to export natural gas, especially to help relieve the grip Russia maintains on Europe and Ukraine. Both countries are dependent on the Kremlin's natural gas supplies.

 "I am going to continue to do my part on this [Senate Energy and Natural Resources] Committee to find common ground," Landrieu said. "It's hard to do between the right that wants to drill everywhere, that wants to export everywhere, everyday, and the left who thinks we need to keep it all in the U.S."

Landrieu, who sits as chairwoman on the Senate Energy committee, hopes to hold a markup on Udall's bill in the near future, stating she has promised Udall to "find an opportunity" to do so.

Now, Landrieu will work on talking to members of the committee collectively and individually to find a path forward for the bill.

It won't be easy, however, as some Republicans on the committee have lashed out at Landrieu for what they are calling an attempt to turn her position as chairwoman into a "show" for constituents back home.